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A View from the Ridge: May still has a mountain to clamber up on her Brexit deal

Pushing on: Theresa May with her husband Philip during a walking holiday PICTURE: PA

WHEN people write the history of Brexit (and it won’t be pretty), the turning point on which the whole charade hinges will be a walking holiday in Snowdonia.

It was then — with the brisk mountain air in her face and husband at her side — that Theresa May decided to call the fateful general election that would see her lose her Commons majority.

From that moment, getting Brexit through parliament has been an impossible sudoku puzzle. No matter how long the whips spend hunched over the numbers, furiously scribbling and rubbing out their workings, it just doesn’t add up.

On Tuesday MPs will vote on the prime minister’s deal. It is almost inconceivable that she will win the vote — the only question is by how much she loses.

If she loses by 50 votes or fewer, she still has a fighting chance of getting her Brexit deal through. I’ve spoken to some MPs who despair about the deal on the table and want to register their frustration by voting against it.

However, they are terrified by the prospect of no deal or no Brexit (or possibly both) and — with a few tweaks — would begrudgingly fall into line if there was a second Commons vote. Note there is a handy meeting of the EU Council on Thursday and Friday next week where Mrs May could wring a few more concessions.

If the defeat is emphatic and crushing, however, that idea is for the birds — and that is the risk for those who plan on voting for Mrs May’s deal only the second time around.

A loss by more than 100 votes would surely spell the end of the deal — and perhaps her premiership. Then Mrs May really will have a mountain to climb.

A general election? A second referendum? A Norway-style soft Brexit? A no-deal exit?

It’s impossible to tell.

The PM needs to find a Plan B she can live with

Historic debate: Speaker John Bercow

One day I dream of being able to write a column about a subject that isn’t Brexit. But after speaker John Bercow allowed a debate in which the government was found in contempt of parliament for the first time ever — an offence which historically saw you locked up in the Tower of London — this sadly isn’t that week.

This was the week parliament attempted to wrestle back control of Brexit, voting to allow MPs a say in what happens when (rather than if) the PM’s deal is voted down.

As our parliamentarians skew heavily towards Remain, this means a ‘soft Brexit’ is more likely.

Nick Boles, a Conservative MP close to David Cameron and Michael Gove, has found himself a reluctant broker for what’s being termed a ‘Norway-plus’ deal that would keep the UK in the single market and customs union.

It’s something that the PM could never countenance, as it would mean accepting free movement of people from the EU. But, depending on the size of her defeat, she may not have a choice.

Mr Boles believes he has a parliamentary majority for his plan. He told me he’s been speaking to eight members of the Cabinet plus the leaders of other parties.

The government insists there is no Plan B — but after Tuesday it may need one.

Dom-inating both sides of debate

Remain or Leave: Dominics Grieve and Raab oppose deal

On this week’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday we’ll be speaking to two Dominics from opposite sides of the Brexit debate — Dominic Raab, a Leave supporter who resigned as Brexit secretary over Theresa May’s deal, and Dominic Grieve, a Remainer who tabled the motion that caused so much pain to the prime minister this week. Their views on leaving the EU couldn’t be further apart but they are united in their opposition to Mrs May’s plan, which sums up her parliamentary problem. Any questions you’d like me to ask our guests? Let me know on Twitter.

@sophyridgesky