What will be noted most in Brussels and in the EU27 is not that the amendment passed, but that Theresa May supported it.
• Theresa May ordered her Conservative MPs to vote for Graham Brady’s amendment calling for the Irish backstop to be replaced with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border”.
• The amendment thus backed by the government was passed by 317 votes in favour to 301 votes against, a majority of 16.
• The Prime Minister said she will return to Brussels to reopen negotiations with the EU on legally-binding alternatives to the backstop.
Theresa May agreed to the Irish Backstop (twice); she proposed its form; she asked for and got their help in selling the Withdrawal Agreement; she promised she would be able to sell it to Parliament.
Then, she chucked it under a bus.
Most seem to have conveniently forgotten that the EU27’s line that this is the Withdrawal Agreement, the only Withdrawal Agreement available, and that it will not be re-opened, was in response to May’s need to force her own MPs to agree to it.
They also forget that the reason it is UK-wide is because Theresa May requested it was that rather than Northern Ireland-only, as she wrongly thought it would placate the DUP and BritNat Tories. Many of the EU27 preferred Northern Ireland-only as they thought the UK was getting Future Relationship concessions too easily.
It is one thing for Parliament to throw concessions and assistance back in the EU27’s face. They get the difference between Government and Parliament. It is quite another for the Prime Minister who they gave the requested concessions and assistance to, and who promised it would be fine, to do so.
She, and this Cabinet, will never be trusted again by the EU27 leaders. Future Relationship negotiations will be conducted in a trust- and goodwill-free zone. Requests for concessions will be dismissed. Assistance will not be forthcoming. UK perceptions ignored.
Even if she does eventually get the Withdrawal Agreement through, the UK will be entering a world of pain in negotiations as a result of the Government’s earlier conduct and breaches of trust. The EU27 will put options on the table. UK will decide to take or leave them.
Those MPs who don’t want this, who rightly don’t believe they will have any real say, and who know they would have to accept whatever comes out of the process or face a new No-Deal cliff-edge without the option to revoke, need to act now.
The choice for them is the deal, and a world of pain and helplessness for 2-4 years then swallowing whatever they are given; a world of pain now through No-Deal; a way out of this through an extension and a second referendum; or more waiting and an emergency revocation in March to avert No-Deal.
And that is if there would be time (which there may well not be) to legislate (which may be needed) for an emergency revocation by then. Unless you want to rely on the Prime Minister doing the right thing at that point. Really?🔷
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.)