Theresa May’s deal has been heavily defeated a second time, as expected. With 391 against and 242 in favour, the majority of 149 was smaller than in January – when it went down by a record-breaking 230 votes – but still crushing. Only three Labour rebels (Kevin Barron, Caroline Flint, John Mann) voted for it. To most, Jeremy Corbyn’s pronouncement after the result that the “deal is clearly dead” was self-evident. And yet, encouraged by switchers such as David Davis, Nadine Dorries and Philip Davies, there is already talk in Tory circles of a third meaningful vote.
Whatever the government plans, May is losing more and more control as time passes, so a third vote could not be on the same deal. Tonight, MPs will have the chance to vote on a motion against a no deal outcome in March, for which the Prime Minister has announced that she will offer a ‘free vote’. (Allowing her cabinet to vote whichever way they like without having to resign.) As a Labour spokesperson commented, it shows she has “given up any pretence of leading the country”. And tomorrow the Commons will have its say on whether to delay Brexit.
In Labour circles, there is anger about the little mention afforded to another referendum yesterday by either the Labour leader or Keir Starmer. Perhaps Tom Watson’s Future Britain Group has, by providing an outlet for frustrated Corbynsceptics, actually relieved pressure on the leadership. It’s clear, as it frankly always has been, that the appetite among MPs for another public vote is insufficient and – I hear – dwindling further.
Instead, Labour is going to focus on securing indicative votes next week, and I’m told MPs hope to achieve this by amending the Article 50 extension motion tomorrow. The ‘Kyle/Wilson’ amendment and other iterations of a ‘people’s vote’ plan would get a hearing at that point, but so would a customs union deal and Common Market 2.0, both of which are likely to garner more support. For those wondering ‘what is the point if the EU won’t renegotiate?’, which I often see from Labour members, the BBC’s Katya Adler put it succinctly this morning: “If the UK’s red lines change, the EU’s red lines change”.
It is set to be an extraordinarily busy day in parliament, with PMQs, followed by the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, the ‘no deal’ debate, votes from 7pm (on the motion and probably amendments) and finally the PM’s next steps (i.e. Brexit delay vote tomorrow). Keep checking LabourList to follow it all… Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.