Theresa May’s win gives her the scent of bigger victory, courtesy of divided Labour

Quite a coup, to turn a defeat by 230 votes into a victory by 15 votes in a fortnight – a victory courtesy of the DUP by the way. Rather sadly, the big losers of the day were the supporters of a second referendum.   But what sort of victory? It required turning 180 degrees from insisting hers was  the only deal, to agreeing to renegotiate  the “significant and legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement” she insisted was impossible only a fortnight ago .

The victory was won on the Brady amendment that spoke only of “alternative arrangements. Yet she felt compelled to go further to get the ERG and the DUP on board.  So it’s a heavily conditional and perhaps a  Pyrrhic victory.

From RTE’s Tony Connelly..

A senior EU source has told @rtenews that during a phone call at 12pm Brussels time Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Theresa May there would be no reopening of the Irish backstop or the Withdrawal Agreement. The source said that Mr Juncker conveyed to Mrs May that it would be fruitless for her to come to Brussels on the basis of an attempt to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement..


If the UK’s intentions for the future partnership were to evolve, the EU would be prepared to reconsider its offer and adjust the content and the level of ambition of the political declaration, whilst respecting its established principles.

Simon Coveney, Irish foreign minister

Backstop was agreed by UK/EU as the insurance policy to avoid a hard border in all scenarios. We hope it will never be used, or be replaced quickly by a future relationship agreement. But it is necessary and tonight’s developments at Westminster do nothing to change this.


Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 would stand ready to consider it and decide by unanimity. The EU27 will adopt this decision, taking into account the reasons for + duration of a possible extension,


She’s not as boxed in as the EU’s slapdown suggests. On the other hand her chances of fulfilling her new “mandate” are low. What “alternative arrangements” are in the air?

  • A free trade deal with technology obviating controls on the actual border (Iain Duncan Smith).  Deader than a dodo.


  • A customs union that by definition avoids a hard border {the Labour front bench and some Tory soft Brexiteers). A   possible route to the light here, because Jeremy Corbyn, after making a speech that seemed terrible on purpose,  agreed to negotiate with her at last. And the Tory Dame Caroline Spellman’s motion calling for No Deal was carried, albeit non-binding.


  • Concentrate on fleshing out the political declaration which envisages a customs union and begin final negotiations almost immediately, thus reducing the backstop to less than a doorstop.   (Ken Clarke).  This just might be on offer but would it be asked for? It’s a big stretch from “a significant and legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement.” But many Labour MPs are biting.

Let’s say Mrs May submits something like the above it to MPs in the next meaningful vote on 13 February. She tries her old ploy of selling a turkey as a victory, knowing no one is taken in. But emboldened by TINA (there is no alternative), by constant attrition against both sides of the House and last night’s success, she perseveres.

She crashes to final defeat when the Brexiteers and the DUP vote against and everybody else abstains or opposes.

Parliament fails to agree an alternative. The two main parties agree to a general election.

Unlikely now, as a majority pledged against No Deal. She buttresses support by conceding an extension of Article 50 to avoid a crash out No Deal on 29 March.

With A 50 extended, the withdrawal agreement would pass with Labour help and despite ERG and DUP opposition, even without a promise to create a customs union. The aim is to stop No Deal at all costs. The backstop is a sideshow. Labour support for a soft Brexit is much greater than hard line Brexiteers’ toleration of No Deal. Theresa May has gone against all her instinct and splits the party, but knowing this time, she’ll win

Mrs May wins the long battle for Brexit. Forces regroup for the war of the final settlement. The Conservatives  cast about for a new leader, fairly quietly at first. They need a scapegoat for  relative failure.

How about it?


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