The anti-Brexit campaigners, led by the indefatigable Steve Bray, who campaigns outside the Houses of Parliament each day it sits, were standing behind Leaver Tory backbench MP, John Redwood as he was being interviewed live by the BBC on Westminster Green, comically waggling their anti-Brexit slogans.
Mr Redwood was giving his view of the fallout of David Davis’s resignation, but as he was being interviewed the BBC was rehearsing the incidences that seemed to indicate a significant level of incompetence, including how little time Mr Davis spent with EU negotiators (four hours) and once turning up for an EU summit briefing with no paperwork whatsoever.
After my meeting ended (news of Johnson’s resignation broke during it and I valiantly suppressed the desire to scan twitter for commentary!) I made my way back to the the tube via Westminster Green and stopped for a chat with Steve Bray and his fellow campaigners to offer my support. There were scores of satellite trucks and media camped out there and many people were calling out words of encouragement as they walked by.
As I left London, rumours were circling on Twitter that the man in charge of getting the overseas deals post Brexit (precisely no deals signed so far), Liam Fox, was next to resign, but during my journey home, it became obvious that Mrs May was going to hang on by the skin of her teeth simply by being determined to replace every cabinet minister who resigned!
Her message appeared to work and the rumours surrounding Liam Fox dried up, to be replaced by “May to survive for now” type news stories.
Most political commentators agree, however, that the prime minister has only bought herself a bit more time. The description “zombie prime minister” has been used and the real test will be getting her ‘soft Brexit’ plan through the commons.
The white paper is set to be published on Thursday but the EU has already indicated that it will not accept the plan as it stands as it is still regarded as cherry picking. Free movement of people must come as part of the deal or it undermines the EU’s constitutional integrity.
The EU also regards goods and services as enmeshed, something that May and her colleagues want separated, with goods in, but services out, of the single market, despite that services represent 80 per cent of our economy and excluding services would almost certainly be extremely damaging to those businesses.
Equally, the EU’s view of May’s customs arrangements are that they’re unworkable.
Yesterday, No.10 infuriated many Tory MPs by privately briefing Labour MPs on the paper’s content.
This was a desperate measure because Mrs May’s team are fully aware that many of their own party will vote against her soft Brexit plan, preferring instead no deal despite its catastrophic consequences.
The Labour Party, with its hapless and ambiguous approach to Brexit were perhaps regarded as Theresa May’s best hope, except that Kier Starmer, the shadow Brexit Secretary, has denounced May’s plan as “unworkable” “a fudge” and “a bureaucratic nightmare.”
The SNP is also set to vote down the proposals.
So what happens if Theresa May cannot get her plan through the commons?
Well, the betting odds of a leadership contest and also a general election have just dropped spectacularly ….
My own take on this whole farce that is seeing government ministers (albeit useless ones) resigning for self-centred, grandiose reasons, is that it is a shocking waste of time and public funds that we are repeatedly told we don’t have.
So far Brexit is thought to have cost this country a fortune. The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney said in May that since the referendum two years ago it has cost each household £900.
Last November, Brexit had already cost our economy a whopping £20bn according to a team of economists linked to the well respected Centre for Economic Policy Research.
And as for Arron Banks and Nigel Farage’s Leave campaign links to Russia and the damning verdict by the Electoral Commission on the campaign’s massive overspend, it is hard to come to any other conclusion that Russia played a part in the referendum Leave result.
Banks is now facing an investigation by the National Crime Agency on their links with Russia leading up to the vote.
Our democracy appears to be in peril.
But while the media froth about the twists and turns of the rollercoaster that is Brexit, the real stories, the stuff that affects you, me and other people of average means – austerity and the NHS, massive council cuts, the travesty that is social care, carers not being supported, people dying alone because there aren’t enough paid carers or hospital beds… go largely unreported.
They’re on my radar though. Watch this space…
Pics: With Steve Bray, determined anti-Brexit campaigner.