Who has Theresa May betrayed? Remainers or Brexiteers?
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
In the end it was another fudge, another desperate bid to avoid a spat with either Tory Leavers or Remainers.
And now the next five days will be key for Theresa May: the battle over exactly what will be in the Brexit Bill when it goes back to the House of Lords starts here.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote those Tory rebels were rather pleased with themselves. They had seemingly secured the first two points on Dominic Grieve's amendment unchallenged with an assurance from the prime minister herself that the third element (that if the government could not strike a deal by February 15 MPs would take over) would be discussed.
But Brexiteers also claimed it was a victory for them. The whips office had spun both sides to the point where everyone was dizzy.
The clashes in the chamber will be nothing compared to those that will go on behind closed doors in the coming days.
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When the Bill goes back to the Lords May faces a crunch moment. It will then be clear who she has betrayed – she can fudge no longer.
If the amendment goes in as Grieve believes it will expect Jacob Rees-Mogg to throw the kind of tantrum not even nanny can soothe. And with the European Research Group at his beck and call the member for the 18th Century retains real power.
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But if it transpires the Remainers have been sold a dummy they also have the numbers to cause the government a real headache when the Trade Bill enters the Commons next month.
There were at least 14 potential rebels who were hastily put in front of the prime minister in the minutes before the vote. Their quiet defiance will turn to anger if they have been betrayed.
She might have scraped through again this time. But her time is running out.
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