With government in turmoil, what now for Brexit?
- Credit: PA
With the government in turmoil and the prime minister teetering on the edge, political editor RICHARD PORRITT asks 'what now for Brexit?'
How else can we describe the fall-out from the Brexit deal as the country faces up to the very real possibility of a new prime minister and a no-deal Brexit?
No-one voted for this. No-one campaigned for this utter, unadulterated mayhem. Our politicians should be running the country but instead they are grandstanding and puffing their chests out for one ideology or another.
The pound in free-fall. Preparations under way for food and medicine to be stock-piled. And the prospect of a destabilising switch of PM.
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The East of England overwhelmingly voted for Brexit – those people who put their trust in our politicians to deliver will be understandably furious today.
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And what of the Remainers? Just because they lost does not mean they should be forgotten. They were promised a good deal to sugar the pill of quitting Europe. Now it appears the UK may well get no deal.
Here in Norfolk and Waveney we have businesses large and small desperate for clarity. There is none. Anything could happen next.
For Theresa May things could not be much worse. She is digging in and now faces a vote of her own MPs to decide whether they think she is fit to lead not only their party but the country. Expect this is be announced in the coming days.
The vote is key not only for her and the Tories but the whole country. This will shape Brexit.
So what happens if she loses? The likelihood is that a leading Brexiteer – Boris Johnson perhaps – would stand. And a Remainer, or at least softer Brexiteer, would probably stand as well.
Obviously some of the big beasts from Mrs May's cabinet would also fancy their chances. Jeremy Hunt has been shaping up as a potential candidate since his move to the foreign office and Michael Gove's ambition to lead the country is without doubt.
And what if Mrs May wins? Then what? Well, it appears highly unlikely she will get the Brexit deal through parliament. When Labour's Chris Leslie, rather mischievously, asked for a show of hands in the Commons of those MPs who supported the prime minister's deal not one hand was raised.
Mrs May could go back to Brussels and ask for some renegotiation but the EU has so far been clear: this is the deal and it doesn't change.
What a victory in a confidence vote could offer Mrs May though is more time. It does not appear that we are ready to Brexit. Parliament may have to be pragmatic about this and vote to ask for more time for talks. As painful as that might be for some it could become our only viable option.
Our MPs have so far remained behind the prime minister. This newspaper is not aware of any penning letters of no confidence.
Both Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman and veteran North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham have said she is the only option.
And Waveney's Peter Aldous added: 'As the prime minister said there has been a great deal of work on this and it has been a very difficult negotiation.
'There is a great deal to study here – but as it stands at the moment it is not easy to see how it would get through parliament.
'People in Waveney voted to leave because of specific concerns in the area concerned with fishing and other things. I asked the prime minister if there would be more support for areas like this after today – and she said there would so we will have to wait to see what happens.'
Wait and see. What else can any of us do?
How does Mrs May go on? The rumours around Westminster when she called an unexpected press conference were that she had finally had enough. Less stoic leaders would have jacked it all in months ago.
But she refuses. She tells the nation that she is working in everyone's interest and now is not the time for a change at the top. I think a lot of people would agree with her.
But she has placed the country – perhaps not through her own actions entirely – in checkmate. Something dramatic needs to happen to break the impasse and get Brexit back on track.
Many voices are now calling for a second vote, the chance for the people to decide whether they back Mrs May's deal, would prefer a no-deal or even if the public have got buyer's regret and want to stay in the EU after all.
But she remains adamant that we will be leaving the EU on March 29 next year – exactly how remains to be seen.