Now that European leaders, including Angela Merkel, have signaled that they would be open to a “Brexit Day” extension, it appears Theresa May’s gambit – that is, her decision to accede to her critics and open the door to votes on a delay and the possibility of a ‘no deal’ Brexit – might be paying off.
To wit, as Reuters reported Wednesday, the leader of the Eurosceptic ERG signaled that he would drop his demand that the Irish Backstop be removed from the exit deal altogether, a major concession which suggests that the eurosceptics have been sufficiently rattled by the possibility that Brexit could be delayed or – now that Labour is officially backing a second referendum – canceled altogether.
ERG leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said he could “live” with the backstop, so long as assurances are made that it won’t be permanent, and that a “short-term” exit date be affixed to the deal.
“I can live with the de facto removal of the backstop … I mean that if there is a clear date that says the backstop ends, and that is in the text of the treaty or equivalent of the text of the treaty,” Rees-Mogg told BBC radio.
The concession offers a hint at the ERG’s thinking as the group, which played a major role in defeating the first iteration of May’s deal, mulls what to do now that a delayed Brexit is a real risk.
To be sure, a vote on May’s “Plan B” Brexit deal, which is set for March 12, is still widely expected to fail, barring any new concessions from Europe. Europe has ruled out a fixed end date for the backstop, but the fact that the ERG is seriously considering backing down from its demands should be enough to convince May that maybe this new approach is working.