All week, different estimates have been flying back and forth of the scale of opposition to the Prime Minister’s proposed Brexit deal. As is always the case, the pressure of bigger-is-better pushes the numbers ever higher, and encourages those doing the calculating to become ever more relaxed about their criteria.
As Paul warned in December, such endless inflation is also convenient for Downing Street, in that it skews the question of expectation management: ‘Ponder the possible consequences of an expectation that the Government will lose the meaningful vote by 200…and it actually losing it by, say, 50. Disaster would suddenly be spun as triumph.’
In order to prioritise accuracy above excitability, ConservativeHome has been more, well, conservative when calculating our own list.
The tests we have applied are somewhat stricter. Simply supporting Stand Up 4 Brexit, or criticising Chequers, or even writing a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister, is not in itself enough to be taken as proof of opposition to the deal. Some very pro-Brexit and very anti-Chequers MPs will likely vote with the Government when the ‘meaningful vote’ comes.
For our estimate, we have identified three categories of MP.
The first contains those who oppose the deal. They have said or written, publicly, that they will vote against it, or at minimum that they will not support it. We count 81 MPs in this group.
The second contains those who probably oppose the deal. They are on record opposing it to some degree, but mostly with an attendant caveat which implies they might perhaps be won round. Some have committed to oppose the deal “as it stands” or “in its current form”, or specified an amendment that would assuage their concerns. Also included are several MPs whose response to the deal has been to say they want a second referendum as a direct and preferable alternative, but not unambiguously commit themselves to opposing it. We count 20 MPs in this group.
The third contains those who maybe oppose the deal. These are MPs who have either specified concerns and said they are awaiting answers, or whose inclination appears to be to want to follow the whip but describe it as some variation of “difficult to support”. We count a further 9 MPs in this group.
All the names in each group are listed at the foot of this post.
As those definitions imply, this is an art more than a science. The variation in MPs’ turns of phrase alone makes it tricky to apply hard and fast rules – some prefer the courtly language of “I cannot support this” when they mean “I hate it with a passion and would vote against it a thousand times given the chance”, while others are freely vituperative in their condemnation but less courageous in the voting lobbies.
Some MPs may therefore pop up after this list is published to clarify their precise position as firmer or softer than we have been able to judge from their public statements; I particularly anticipate several of those listed in the grey zone of “probably oppose” due to vague phrasing might well wish to identify themselves as certain opponents.
Indeed, we encourage clarifications of any sort – more information is always a useful thing.
Others who are thus far undecided may yet decide to come out as opponents of the deal, while some who are currently opposed might be won round by the Government’s arguments, or by amendments that could yet be conceded.
In other words, this list will change between now and the vote. Indeed, I would be amazed if it does not. But at this point it is our best estimate.
10/1/19: We have added Andrew Mitchell and Douglas Ross to the opposition column, on the basis of their contributions in Hansard, and removed George Freeman and Trudi Harrison, who have tweeted today that they will support the deal.
14/1/19 – 9am: Edward Leigh has now been removed altogether, having been downgraded from a probable to a possible on Friday. None of the three Brexiteers listed as supporting Downing Street this morning – Andrew Murrison, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Caroline Johnson – were on our list in the first place.
14.30: Gareth Johnson has resigned as a whip to vote against the deal tomorrow.
21.45: Desmond Swayne has been moved from the Opposition column to the possibles, and Andrew Selous has been removed from the possibles. And John Hayes has been moved from the probables to those opposed.
15/1/19 – 9am: Greg Hands and Julian Sturdy will vote against the deal.
– 10.30am: Charlie Elphicke will vote against.
– 3pm: Pauline Latham has confirmed she will vote against, as has Guto Bebb.
– 5pm: We understand William Wragg will vote against. Meanwhile, Neil Parish, formerly on our probables list, has decided to vote for the deal.
– 6pm: Robert Syms, Rob Halfon and Fiona Bruce will vote against. So we move the first two from our probables list to our opposition one. Edward Leigh now says he may vote against so we reinstate him on our possibles.
– 6.20pm: Craig Tracey is upgraded from a probable to an opponent of the deal – notably he is currently a PPS.
Oppose the deal (82 MPs)
Will probably vote against the deal (20 MPs)
Will perhaps vote against the deal (9 MPs)