It’s a Brexit chocka day in parliament, as MPs kick off with questions to DExEU. They will be querying small matters such as, er, how the country will function after Brexit, with Rupa Huq asking about the volume of new legislation required in the event of ‘no deal’ and Diana Johnson reminding the government of that long-awaited white paper on immigration. Next, it’s Business of the House Questions, when Speaker Bercow and Andrea Leadsom show everyone how much they dislike each other. Then it’s onto Day Three of the Brexit debate, which frankly is becoming dull already thanks to extremely lacklustre speeches that make you wonder whether Tory backbenchers are aware they are taking part in a historic debate. C’mon, give it some welly lads.
The most impressive Conservative contribution so far actually came from the other House, where Lord Heseltine warned his party: “When the election comes, it will have been a Tory that led the referendum campaign; it will have been a Tory government that perpetuated the frozen living standards; it will be a Tory government that is blamed for what we are talking about today. I will have no part of it.” Prime Minister Corbyn here we come? There may well be an election in 2019, but at the moment the DUP says it would support the government in a no-confidence vote (as long as the deal is voted down).
The real action is taking place behind closed doors as Theresa May tries to peel away some of her rebels. On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, the Prime Minister admitted that the UK could not unilaterally withdraw from the ‘backstop’, and even tried to sell its benefits compared to extending the transition period – no extra payments to the EU, no free movement. Because there is no deal without it, she says. And yet there is no DUP backing with it.
There are rumours flying around Westminster that No10 is considering an amendment that would guarantee MPs a vote on whether to enter the backstop, but Steve Baker and the DUP are not convinced. It wouldn’t be binding, they point out. (“If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”) Ultimately, it’s clear that whatever tricks are tried, the deal won’t be passing on the first go. The question is whether a Tory Brexit deal can get MPs’ approval on the second attempt, and which Labour MPs would be willing to help push it through. Buzzfeed reports that Momentum has drawn up a list of 20 possibles, from Caroline Flint to Sarah Champion, who will presumably come under particular pressure from its campaign votedownthedeal.co.uk.
Finally, away from Brexit for a moment, today we can expect the announcement of a new Welsh Labour leader. Mark Drakeford, Vaughan Gething or Eluned Morgan will replace Carwyn Jones next week, after the incumbent emails the Queen with his resignation and she replies. (Not kidding.) The result is unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone who has been even vaguely following the race… but keep an eye on LabourList for the voting figures.