Facing a "critical week" that will include a meeting with EU bureaucrats in Brussels and culminate with a weekend summit to iron out the final details of May's draft Brexit plan, as well as an accompanying political statement, Theresa May is resorting to threats and scare tactics to drum up support for her supremely unpopular draft Brexit plan, which she insists is the "best deal possible" and "in the national interest" despite many salient criticisms expressed by Brexiteers and remainers alike.
In an interview with Sky News on Sunday that featured May facing off with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the prime minister claimed that some of the concerns raised by opponents of the deal could be addressed with alternations to the accompanying political statement, a nonbinding agreement that is intended to create a 'framework' for the future trading relationship between the two sides.
And if this isn't enough, well, MPs would be better off if they swallowed their doubts and trusted the process - at least, if they want Brexit to succeed. Because provoking a leadership change at this point would likely jeopardize the UK's ability to reach any deal with the EU. And faced with the possibility of a "no-deal" Brexit, it's likely that MPs would vote for a second referendum to would raise the possibility of Brexit being scrapped altogether.
"These next seven days are going to be critical, they are about the future of this country," May told Sky News. "I am not going to be distracted from the important job."
"A change of leadership at this point isn’t going to make the negotiations any easier...what it will do is mean that there is a risk that actually we delay the negotiations and that is a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated."
May's suggestion that Brexit could still be cancelled comes as Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said her MPs would vote against the draft plan, while a poll of 505 Tory MPs found that more were against the deal than for it. This would add to the unanimous opposition from the DUP (the Northern Irish party propping up May's government) and almost guarantee that the deal would lose by a staggering margin, given that most Labour MPs would also be expected to vote against.
Meanwhile, in an interview on the Andrew Marr show, May's former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab offered his most detailed explanation yet about why he decided to resign this week. As Raab explained, with "two or three points" being changed, Raab said he would be able to support the deal. But instead of pushing for these changes, Raab said May is "being bullied, I do think we are being subjected to what is pretty close to blackmail frankly."
"This is a manageable problem," Raab said.
While Raab said he would support May should a leadership challenge arise, he played down speculation about his own leadership ambitions, which is exactly something that somebody with leadership ambitions would do.
Even more discouraging is the latest Ipsos poll, which showed that May's unpopular deal has bolstered Labour's popularity, as its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been steadfastly critical of May's deal (voices many of the same concerns as the ERG), insisting that Labour could win a better deal in time for Brexit and hinting that, if the current deal isn't modified, a second Brexit referendum (what conservative and labour MPs have referred to as a "People's Vote) might be necessary at some point.
Here's the Guardian:
Compared with a month ago, the Conservatives have dropped five points to 36% while Labour has gained three to stand on 39%. The proportion of Leavers backing the Tories has dropped by 10 points in one month.
And as if the domestic opposition wasn't enough of an obstacle, Brussels on Sunday deepened May's predicament by declaring in a seemingly arbitrary way that any extension to the Brexit transition period last at least a year, and be accompanied by an additional 10 billion euro payout (in addition to the 39 billion euros the UK would be expected to pay under May's plan, according to the Guardian.
If there was one silver lining in the weekend onslaught of Brexit-related news, it was that Graham Brady, the leader of the conservatives' 1922 committee, confirmed that he has not received the 48 no confidence letters necessary to trigger a leadership challenge against May.
But the European Research Group, the umbrella group of Brexiteer Torys who have ferociously opposed May's deal, released on Sunday a concise accounting of its criticisms of May's plan. After a close reading, the arguments would seem to undercut May's insistence that her deal is a "good deal" that was negotiated on the "UK's terms." In essence, the ERG is accusing May of abandoning her promise, made in January 2017, that she would avoid any deal that would leave the UK "half in, half out" of the EU. But by allowing for the possibility that the UK could be bound by EU rules set by the ECJ, as well as customs union rules over which the UK would have no say, May is setting up the UK to become a "vassal state" beholden to the EU's rules, with no say in deciding them.
With investment banks like Deutsche Bank seeing a renegotiation of May's deal as a base case (while also allowing for the possibility that another Brexit referendum could follow if May is ousted), and May's own top cabinet ministers reportedly planning to pressure her to approach Brussels about renegotiating the deal, UK traders should be bracing for more turmoil in markets because - regardless of what happens - it looks like this fraught back-and-forth could continue right up until the March 29 "Brexit Day" deadline.