IT is hard not to feel sorry for Theresa May. She is like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail who keeps getting his limbs cut off but, undeterred, bounces back for more.

She picked up the poisoned chalice dropped hurriedly by David Cameron, only for the British people to cut her off at the knees in the general election. Tis but a scratch, she said, and soldiered on, taking humiliation and ridicule on the chin while having bits of her cabinet sliced off through resignation. Even her own voice deserted her at a key moment – I’ve had worse, she croaked.

Each time, she bounced back for more, and now in a triumph against the odds, she has secured a deal which could enable Britain to leave the European Union, as she promised, on March 29.

She will try to sell it as a good deal, in that it ticks many boxes over Ireland and immigration. It gives business a bit of craved-for certainty, and it avoids the horrors of a no deal exit or a Jeremy Corbyn-led replacement government.

And for many of the British people who just wish their politicians would get on with it, it moves Brexit on a notch.

But everybody else hates it. The strangest bedfellows are united against it.

Remainers and Leavers. Irish and Scots. Jo and Boris Johnson. Labour Stockton South MP Paul Williams called it an “international embarrassment” and Conservative Middlesbrough South MP Simon Clarke described it as “a disastrous failure of policy”. Even Labour leader Corbyn and former Labour leader Tony Blair raised the same question yesterday about how much sovereignty Europe would maintain over Britain under the deal, with Mr Corbyn calling it an “indefinite half-way house” and Mr Blair saying it was “the worst of both worlds”.

Even yesterday’s extraordinary cabinet meeting inflicted another injury upon her. It was supposed to be over by five o’clock, but it wasn’t until nearly 7.30pm that Mrs May appeared outside the Downing Street door to announce that the cabinet had backed her. Will they still be behind her in the cold light of this morning, and if she struggles to carry her closest colleagues, how ever is she going to win over a sceptical Parliament?

But, like the Black Knight, Mrs May shrugged on the steps of Downing Street – “just a flesh wound” – and is now limping towards the next showdown that she cannot possibly win.

Before she gets to Parliament, some more bits of her cabinet may get sliced off. Remember, even though the cabinet appeared united behind the Chequers deal in the summer, moments after that unity, David Davis and Boris Johnson resigned.

And so, as the full extent of this 500-page deal sinks in, Brexiteers Penny Mordaunt, Esther McVey and Liz Truss may find it unacceptable. There may be other further surprise departures: Scottish secretary David Mundell appeared very unhappy yesterday with Northern Ireland’s special treatment, which appears to bring into question the whole nature of the United Kingdom.

But those resignations would not inflict fatal wounds on Mrs May – she even managed to soldier on when her big name Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, resigned.

However, this time if Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Sajid Javed, Environment Secretary Michael Gove or Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab were to jump ship and provide a plausible alternative leader, Mrs May would be deeply troubled.

At the moment, she fights on. She will use soft and hard tactics to sell her deal, including the line that Mr Gove has used recently: the deal delivers a partial Brexit and allows the real negotiations over the trade deal to begin on April 1 which will really shape our permanent future relationship. She will use the pragmatic line: let’s move Brexit on and get down to work on the people’s priorities, like the NHS as winter approaches.

But the Parliamentary mathematics are against her. As well as the 20 to 40 Tory backbenchers in Jacob Rees Mogg’s grouping who are against her, the ten Ulster Unionists appear prepared to vote against her, and even 13 Scottish Tories may not support


Labour is in no mood to help. Darlington MP and shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman said last night: “It is a deal that appears to have a number of problems, principally the customs union being a temporary, last ditch arrangement that they would quickly get out of whereas we want a permanent customs union because that’s where you get the stability and the benefits, so it seems unlikely we will support it.”

Mrs May will use scare tactics to win extra support in her own party, threatening remainers with a no deal which would be far worse than her deal, and threatening leavers with a general election would could well return Mr Corbyn which, to them, would be far worse than her premiership.

There is a theory that with Parliament potentially in deadlock, a second referendum is more likely, but Mrs May and the bulk of the Conservative Party is still set against it. It may be the only way to break the deadlock; it may also divide the country more deeply and be even more inconclusive.

But as of last night, the Black Knight had had another wound inflicted upon her by her cabinet, but she was still fighting. “I firmly believe, with my head and my heart that this is a decision which is in the best interests of the United Kingdom,” she said, as she finished.

There are too many imponderables to predict how this will play out and whether we will be in a position to leave on March 29 – if you are offered shares in delay and fudge, you’d be advised to buy them.