The Commons is in control now, not government

Wednesday 5th December 2018 07:00 GMT

Indeed it all transpired over 63 minutes of agony for the PM before she stood up to launch the historic meaningful vote debate.

It was a moment to last the ages all right, the wrong sort of history. A narrow defeat caused by two defecting Brexiter MPs and the DUP.

Next, a clearer defeat from a further dozen Tory Brexiteers sitting on their hands.

And then soon after the biggest defeat of the night, made all the more amazing because the DUP were back on side, as were four Labour leavers.

That's because a thumping 26 Tory MPs including stalwart Tory loyalists from Sir Nicholas Soames to Sir Oliver Letwin, to the PM's friend and former deputy Damian Green, joined more regular rebels to back Dominic Grieve.

In June, Grieve, the commander of the Remain rebels, was burnt by having perceived to have folded at the crucial moment in the withdrawal bill.

Having given his PM a chance to complete negotiations, he simply reinserted the point he had compromised on by passing last night's amendment.

The Commons has taken back control, and should the meaningful vote fail next Tuesday, it will be able to amend and assert itself on the government's plan B.

Combined with Tuesday morning's news from the European Court of Justice on unilateral revocation of Article 50, the chances of a no-deal Brexit have fallen markedly - there is now a mechanism for a Commons majority to assert itself to stop no deal.

The third lost vote revealed that 26 Tory MPs will rebel against the government if necessary to stop no deal. This is far more than any Labour rebels going the other way. So it is reasonable to presume they will vote again to prevent a no deal, if needed.

At the same time the votes on the contempt motion show that there is no majority for the PM's deal, specifically a deal with an NI backstop will be voted down by the DUP.

There is a chance that the decreased likelihood of no deal, might increase the numbers of potential Tory pro-Brexit rebels who might now fold.

Plenty said no and were eagerly awaiting reading the attorney-general's full legal advice, soon to be published. There may yet be even more horrors for Brexiteers in there.

In any event, even if such factors turn a few, it's difficult to see it changing things radically.

And then all eyes on a confidence vote perhaps a week today and the footsie being played between DUP and Labour.

Surely they couldn't? The two big questions of the next 7 days - do Tory Brexiteers hate May's deal more than the possibility of a no Brexit through a referendum?

And do the DUP hate the backstop more than the chance of Corbyn as PM? The answer to both is veering towards yes.

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