Theresa May has a working majority of just 12 in the Commons, which makes it a challenge to pass any contentious legislation. Her Government had to give in when Stella Creasy tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech allowing abortions to women from Northern Ireland on the NHS in England because as many as 40 Conservative MPs were tempted to vote for it. If a backbencher can secure the Opposition’s support for an amendment, and persuade as few as six Tory MPs to join them, it’s quite likely now to become law.
So Stephen Kinnock’s revelation in the latest episode of Chopper’s Brexit podcast that he has spoken to at least 15 Conservative MPs about pushing for a deal which could keep Britain signed up to free movement after it leaves the European Union will unnerve Downing Street. The Labour MP suggested that his Tory allies could join together in a “coalition of common sense” to back a plan that would leave Britain in the European Economic Area for an unspecified “time-bound period”. Such a scenario would hamper the country’s ability to deal with migrant numbers, which would stick in the craw for many Brexiteers.
Mrs May has made clear that her intention is to curb free movement at the end of the Brexit process, so she will resist this. If Mr Kinnock can secure the support of the Labour Party and enough Tory MPs, he could force it into the relevant Brexit legislation. Sir John Major once urged his MPs not to “bind my hands” during his negotiations with Europe. After gambling away her own majority, the current Prime Minister now finds Remainers are out to do just that.
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