Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement was defeated three times in the House of Commons as she tried to push through her Brexit deal past MPs earlier this year. Ultimately, Mrs May was forced to step down as leader, as it became clear she would not be about to force through her deal, as she planned to lay the agreement out in front of MPs on a fourth occasion. Boris Johnson, who replaced Mrs May as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister last month, has said the UK will be leaving the EU with or without a deal at the end of October this year.
But, speaking on BBC’s Brexitcast, which aired towards the end of July, BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg explained the flaw in Mrs May’s Brexit strategy.
Speaking to Labour Party MP Caroline Flint, Kuenssberg said: “How many Labour MPs do you think are in the same kind of place as you and just want to get it done?
“Because this is what Theresa May got wrong.
“Her team always thought there might be as many 60 maybe even 80 Labour MPs that ultimately would come across.
BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg discussed May’s failed Brexit strategy (Image: BBC)
This is what Theresa May got wrong. – BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg
“How many do you think there would really be, or how many are up for grabs?”
As Mrs May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement was defeated for a third time in the House of Commons, only five Labour MPs voted with the Government at the end of March.
Responding on Brexitcast to Kuenssberg, Mrs Flint said: “Fact: 26 of us signed our most recent letter to Jeremy Corbyn about seeking to get a deal.
“And this was post-European elections.
“I know that beyond those I know of at least another 15 who support the sentiments within that letter but didn’t feel they wanted to sign it.
“Theresa May went wrong as well because it wasn’t just about her expectation of the number of Labour MPs.
“The problem was she couldn’t get near enough the majority on her own side with the DUP to make it worthwhile for a number of those people to feel that that was a price they were prepared to pay in terms of upsetting people on our own side by voting for the deal.
“So that was the biggest problem, to be honest.”
The Labour MP, who voted for Mrs May’s Brexit proposal when it was presented to the Commons for the third time, also argued her party could not succeed in a general election until the Brexit question was resolved.
Mrs Flint admitted: “I think if we went into a general election and this wasn’t sorted on Brexit, I think it’s going to be really difficult.
“Because my sort of feeling on this is, until we’ve actually left the European Union and we can move on, that is going to dominate everything.
“So I actually believe that if we could get onto some of the more normal territories, and nobody should take for granted that that’s going to be enough, on some of the issues around poverty, about jobs, about skills and what have you, then I feel we’ve got a good chance to put our case.”
Prime Minister Mr Johnson has failed to achieve any movement from the European Union who have repeatedly said there will not be changes to the controversial withdrawal agreement.
Michael Gove has accused the EU of refusing to engage in negotiations on a new Brexit deal.
It comes amid reports from Brussels that EU officials had concluded Mr Johnson’s new Government had no intention of negotiating and that its “central scenario” was a no deal break on October 31.
Following a meeting of the Government’s Brexit “war cabinet”, Mr Gove told reporters: “We need a new approach and we stand ready to engage with the European Union, to negotiate in good faith to make sure that we can have friendly relationship in the future.
“We will put all our energy into making sure that we can secure that good deal but at the moment it is the EU that seems to be saying they are not interested.
“They are simply saying ‘No, we don’t want to talk’. I think that is wrong and sad. It is not in Europe’s interests.”
Mr Johnson has said that while he wants to negotiate a new agreement, he is not prepared to open talks unless the EU agrees to drop the backstop – the key stumbling block to Mrs May’s deal.
Speaking on a visit to Northern Ireland, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reiterated his invitation to Mr Johnson to go to Dublin for talks on the basis of “no pre-conditions”.
But, he said the withdrawal agreement could not be re-opened, although the EU could offer “clarifications” as well as possible changes to the Political Declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU.