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Yesterday UK Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly survived a Tory Brexit Rebellion after allegedly caving in to Brexit hardliners. It still took three Labour votes for May to win the challenge.

The Eurosceptic Conservative MPs’ amendment 73, to stop the UK from joining the EU’s VAT regime, was approved by 303 votes to 300 – the same slim majority as the earlier ERG amendment vote. In all, 14 Tories rebelled against the government’s adopted ERG amendment.

Here's today's scorecard.

Custom Union Bid Fails

Reuters reports May Defeats Rebels Over Plans to Remain in EU Customs Union.

Parliament voted 307 to 301 against an amendment to trade legislation that would have required the government to try to negotiate a customs union arrangement with the EU if, by Jan. 21, 2019, it had failed to negotiate a deal with the bloc that offered frictionless free trade for goods.

The narrow victory is May’s third this week, underlining the difficulty she faces in passing legislation on one of the most divisive and important decisions in modern British history with only a minority government and a party at war with itself.

On the whole, the vote seems silly. It is not up to the UK to agree to mandate this. The EU would have to go along.

There are not three options, there are two. Accept the Brexit deal or not.

The BBC reports Government Defeats EU Customs Union Bid.

By a 307-201 vote, the government has survived an attempt by pro-EU Conservative MPs to change its post-Brexit trade strategy. The MPs wanted the UK to join a customs union if it does not agree a free-trade deal with the EU.

That's key.

May Loses Medicines Network Vote

MPs backed an amendment by 305 votes to 301 that would keep the UK in the European medicines regulatory network.

There were 12 Tory rebels in both the customs and medicines votes - but the government's total was boosted by four Labour MPs in the customs vote.

Oops - How Will That Work?

It is not up to the UK to unilaterally decide to stay in a piece of the EU block.

Fundamentally, the concept makes no sense.

And even if the EU would agree to such a construct, at what price?

Pro-Remainers Make Hard Brexit Increasingly Likely

The pro-remainers want to force another vote. The problem is there are three camps.

  1. Those who wish to remain
  2. Those who want a hard Brexit
  3. Those who want a soft Brexit

Option One Is Dead

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The pro-remainers still have not figured out that option one is dead.

The EU is not going to wait around for the UK to schedule another vote, when the vote might not even change.

May Will Soon Be Gone

Telegraph writer Allison Pearson says, It's not a question of whether Theresa May will lose her job, but when - and thousands of readers agree.

Last week, I got an unprecedented response after I wrote about Mrs May’s personal unsuitability for leading our nation through a historic negotiation. Thousands of Telegraph readers agreed, emailing their furious reactions. An armada of Basildon Bond is in the post, I’m sure.

“So far, Mrs May’s negotiating successes have included giving £39 billion to Brussels in return for nothing whatsoever,” protested one reader. “I’m Conservative and I see Theresa May as an EU servant there to thwart Brexit,” fumed another.

I agree, May will not survive. But when?

It is possible May's government soon goes down in vote of no confidence. The Remainers would cheer.

However, the base Labour position is not to remain.

Thus, even if Labour won, there is no guarantee there would be a second vote, nor is there any guarantee the vote would be phrased as binary.

Deal or No Deal?

Roger Bootle writing for The Telegraph says Deal or no deal? May chose an uninspiring fudge instead.

Theresa May’s Chequers proposal, spelt out in last week’s White Paper, represents an enormous climbdown from what she initially appeared to be aiming for, laid out clearly in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017.

In particular, by tying us in to EU regulatory standards on goods, it would make it difficult to secure Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with other countries, including the United States.T

As Mrs May used to say, “No deal is better than a bad deal”. In fact, this “no deal” expression is potentially misleading. What it means is simply that we would leave the EU without an agreement on trade, and would operate under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The WTO option is widely misunderstood. It should hold no terrors for us. We currently do the bulk of our trade with non-EU countries under WTO rules. And if we left the EU without a deal we would not have to hand over the £39 billion “divorce settlement”.

Moreover, the WTO option leaves substantial areas of policy choice, including over what our tariffs are. We could decide to drop tariffs on particular goods but not others; for instance, on cars, which currently incur tariffs at 10 per cent, and/or on car components, where the rate is five per cent. Or we could decide, unilaterally, to drop all our tariffs to zero. We could start to negotiate FTAs immediately. Just because we fail to secure a trade deal with the EU before next March does not mean that we can never secure such a deal.

The argument that we must accept the Chequers fudge just does not add up. Who do they think they are kidding – us or themselves?

Binary Option

The vote at hand is binary.

  1. Accept May's Brexit Deal
  2. Reject May's Brexit Deal

That is the choice. There is no other.

I cheer the antics of the pro-remain group. They make the hard Brexit that I favor all the more likely.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock