Imagine being an alien from a different planet who lands in the UK and tries to work out what is going on with Brexit.

Among the many very confusing aspects would be deciphering the ERG (European Research Group) strategy of achieving a Canada or at least a WTO type deal in the UK-EU negotiations for Britain’s withdrawal of the European Union.

At an earlier stage, the strategy seemed to be to organise a sufficient number of MPs together to ‘chuck Chequers’, find a leader (presumably Boris Johnson🗳️ after his resignation) to challenge Theresa May️🗳️, and propose an alternative plan.

This is not going well. There are not enough rebel MPs to win a vote of confidence against Theresa May. And it is not at all clear that Mr. Johnson is the leader in waiting, for various reasons.

The much mooted alternative plan has apparently been shelved for the moment🔒. If the detail of it in the Sunday Times is correct, we should not be surprised.

So, what next for the rebel Brexit MPs?

They have one great strength. They may not be able to unseat Theresa May but they almost certainly have the votes if they use them to block a Withdrawal Agreement that points towards Chequers. These votes, combined with the Labour Party — who would almost certainly vote against, would be more than sufficient to vote down the government’s position.

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A more subtle question is whether enough Brexit rebels would vote in this way when it comes to it. Bear in mind, the logic of this vote for these MPs would be to leave without a deal.

And any which way you look at it, leaving without a deal is one almighty roll of the dice. So, this is a big risk to take.

The challenge for the Brexit rebels is to demonstrate the credibility of the threat to compel a change in government policy well in advance of the meaningful vote.

This is best accomplished through not publishing the alternative plan (which will be savaged) and not focusing on the leadership (a battle that will not be won).

There’s also no point in waiting for the EU to ‘formally’ refuse Chequers. This isn’t going to happen.

Sure, everyone knows that Chequers doesn’t work, but the European Union is not going to say that in so many words. Instead, the EU message will continue to be along the lines of... ‘Chequers is a good basis for discussion and we appreciate the UK position, but we must ensure the integrity of the Single Market...’

If there are upcoming Brexit related votes I would expect to see the Brexit rebels demonstrate sufficient opposition to show that a Chequers related vote won’t pass.🔷

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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)

(Cover: Unsplash/Tom Parsons.)