Beginning of the end, or end of the beginning?
by Andrew Hawkins, Chairman

Today a special Cabinet meeting is due to be held, in order – in theory - to sign off on the draft Brexit agreement.

We will find out in due course if Theresa May’s colleagues back it, but this morning we are looking at what MPs expect will occur.

In our October omnibus survey of MPs, concluded just a fortnight ago, we found just one in four MPs expect a ‘no deal’ Brexit.  Among Conservatives the proportion was even lower, at one in five.

However, before Theresa May gets too excited, only a similar proportion overall, 25%, expect a Chequers Brexit.  Among Conservatives the proportion is slightly higher but at 33% it is hardly a ringing endorsement from her colleagues.

For those who may be dismayed or delighted at the prospect of the UK actually staying in the EU after all the fuss of the past two years, most MPs don’t think it likely.  Only 12% overall – and a mere six percent of Conservatives - expect Brexit to be frustrated.

Slightly more, 35%, think Article 50 will be extended.  Interestingly this is the area where we found the greatest variation between the views of Labour and Conservative MPs, with 60% of the former expecting it to be extended but only 12% of Conservatives.

As for a second referendum - forget it, say eight in ten Conservatives (79%) and almost half of Labour MPs (47%).  Overall almost two-thirds of MPs (62%) do not expect ‘a second referendum of some sort’ while only one in four (25%) do.

The final question we asked in October was whether MPs expect a General Election before the end of 2019.  No, say 69%; yes, say 24%.  Only 12% of Conservatives think we will get one while 38% of their Labour colleagues say we will.

Back in July we asked MPs about the terms on which they expected the UK would leave the EU.  Eight in ten (81%) said they expected the UK to leave the Single Market and 72% expected the UK to leave the Customs Union.

How significant are the expectations of MPs?  Of course, nothing is certain, but consider this: 96% of Conservative MPs expect the UK to leave the Single Market, and 93% say the same of the Customs Union.  If, on reading today’s 500-page Draft Agreement, Theresa May’s own Party colleagues do not feel that their expectations are being met, it is hard to see how she or the Agreement can survive.

If, on the other hand, the Draft Agreement and the rest of Brexit follow the expectations of Parliament, then we shall in the months ahead see Brexit completed and the UK leaving both the Single Market and Customs Union, with a deal that is not Chequers, within the original timetable of Article 50, and without a second referendum or a General Election between now and Christmas 2019.

We shall see…