Atlas Researcher Sophia Stileman and Senior Researcher Mike Hough talk us through the MPs determining the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU.
After Saturday’s failure to secure any vote on Johnson’s Deal, the clock is ticking to pass a vote in the Commons. Not all MPs carry the same political weight and influence, but the below MPs are crucial to Boris in the votes they bring with them. Ultimately in order to pass a Withdrawal Agreement the Prime Minister needs to strategically appeal to a combination of these, but of course, everyone wants a different slice of the cake. So, who are the key Brexit Makers, and Breakers, to look out for?
1. Steve Baker
Baker represents the Conservative hardcore Brexiteers: the ERG, a group of potentially as many as 70 MPs. Their support is vital, but also incredibly fragile. After the Withdrawal Agreement Bill enters Parliament for a Second Reading today, we expect that a number of amendments will be tabled, one of which is expected to be Labour’s Customs Union amendment. While the ERG support the Deal in its current form, any amendment for a Customs Union would almost certainly see their support entirely withdrawn.
Fun fact: Baker’s hobbies include sky diving and racing catamarans.
2. Damian Green
Green represents the May loyalist grouping who simply want to get this process over with and see the UK exit the EU with a Deal. Most of them backed Remain in the referendum, but are pragmatic in backing a Deal over No Deal. There are approximately 150 (up to 200) of these MPs who will likely back the Deal if it comes back to the Commons this week.
Fun fact: Green is a keen Reading FC supporter.
3. Philip Hammond
Hammond represents the Independent Conservatives – a group of 21 former Conservative MPs. What Hammond will support in any Deal and whether he can even support a Deal, will provide a good indication of where this group stands. Despite Oliver Letwin’s amendment which passed on Saturday, this group is thought to be in favour of Johnson’s deal. Along with the votes of the Eurosceptic ERG, these are the votes that we anticipate will help bring the deal over the line.
Fun fact: Hammond used to run a mobile disco in his youth.
4. Stephen Kinnock
Stephen Kinnock has always maintained he wants a Deal. He, and others such as Caroline Flint, informally represent a group of around 20-25 MPs, seen as ‘Labour Leave’, most of whom represent majority Leave constituencies. They will almost certainly back a Labour Customs Union amendment, although they will still probably support the Deal even if this fails.
Fun fact: Kinnock’s wife is Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who was the first female Prime Minister of Denmark (2011).
5. Peter Kyle
Peter Kyle represents the Labour Remainers who will only back the Deal if it contains an amendment for a confirmatory vote – meaning there would be a referendum on the Deal. This is something certainly being talked about at present but is unlikely to ever achieve sufficient support. We don’t expect this group (estimated to be at around 200) to back the Deal without this amendment.
Fun fact: Kyle used to work for the Body Shop.
6. Jo Swinson
The Lib Dems (currently at 19) are the most hardcore Remain grouping in parliament. They currently back a Second Referendum position, and therefore would likely vote for an amendment which would bring a confirmatory vote on the Deal. However, they remain clear that their main objective is to stop Brexit and thus their support of the Deal with a confirmatory vote is not a sign that they support Brexit. Without a confirmatory vote, they will certainly vote against the Deal.
Fun fact: In her spare time, Swinson enjoys marathon running.
7. Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson is a hardcore Brexiteer, and is a key influencer in his party, the DUP (10 MPs). If he backs (or doesn’t back) a particular amendment, then expect the party to come along with him. He has suggested that he is against a Customs Union, however, recent reports suggest the DUP may now back a Customs Union amendment tabled by Labour.
Fun fact: Wilson owns a Harley Davidson and has been pictured many times in his leather biking gear.
8. Joanna Cherry
Cherry has been leading the SNP’s fight against Brexit from a legal perspective, having been at the forefront of the Supreme Court case. She’s seen as an influential figure in the SNP (35 MPs) and will set the tone for the line they take this week, too. The SNP’s current position is to support an extension followed by a General Election. With Alex Salmond’s trial expected to begin in January (following charges of sexual harassment), they ideally want to see a General Election before then, with the trial bringing bad publicity.
Fun fact: Cherry is a keen swimmer.
So, what does this mean? And what now?
Johnson has to hit the magic 320 MPs for this Deal to pass. He can’t appeal to all 650 MPs. Some, such as the Liberal Democrats, will never back his Deal. But others, such as the Conservative Independents, and the ERG can be swayed. It’s now about what he can trade-off to please Labour Leavers, without alienating the ERG. What he can promise to ERG without upsetting the Tory moderates.
We’ll end with this graph from Redbox, outlining where the numbers currently stand. As you can see, the key undecided MPs who will sway this vote are the Labour Leavers, Independents, and ERG. Only time will tell whether he can swing it. We’ll keep you posted…