Ethelred the Unready, once thought of as a star performer in England’s gallery of incompetent rulers, is now seeing his place taken over by Theresa May. She has been in sole charge of the Brexit negotiations for nearly three years, and on many (not "multiple," please) occasions has declared her unwavering determination to leave the European Union on March 29th 2019. She swore this on a stack of bibles, presumably the same bibles on which she swore that she would never call a general election—until she did just that, two years ago, and was heartily thumped by the electorate. Late on Monday 20 March she wrote to the E.U. requesting a delay to the departure date. John Redwood M.P., the most sagacious of her critics, wrote: "This faltering and badly drafted letter to Mr. Tusk is unacceptable." And now all hell has broken out. Mrs. May has accused the Commons of "indulging itself," "contemplating its navel," and refusing to "face the consequences of the decision." This language did not go down well with the incensed Commons. And May’s request for a delayed departure breaks her solemn promise to the nation.
The E.U. has now responded. They will allow her a two-week extension, to April 12th, and that is conditional upon her getting the Commons to accept her Withdrawal Agreement. The vote is due next Tuesday or Wednesday, and the chances of the Commons changing its mind significantly are small. What then?
Early this morning a devastating new piece of information was made public, in the Daily Telegraph, that vital source with the best information anywhere about the workings of the inner State. (I except the French, "advised by good intelligence" as they always have been. Macron clearly knows something and has said that No Deal is surely coming. He’s right.) Anyway, Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, went to see Theresa May on Monday and told her that a number of his people wanted her to stand down. It is the front page story in today’s Telegraph. No public response has been forthcoming from No. 10, and now, Sir Graham, having given the Prime Minister fair warning, has let the story into the open. Next week will be decisive. This long-running Whitehall farce must close shortly.
Ralph Berry writes from England.