For the past 24 hours, there has been a power struggle between the Prime Minister and her Brexit Secretary, David Davis. Theresa May – or rather her officials – had been insisting that a backstop plan for keeping open the Ireland border would not be amended, to include a sunset clause and formal end date for the backstop. Davis said he would quit in the absence of an end date. She caved. According to sources close to Davis, ‘the backstop paper has been amended and expresses, in much more detail, the time-limited nature of our proposal’.
So to be clear, there is now a termination date in May’s backstop proposal. That almost certainly means she faces a double defeat – because the EU will reject any plan that includes an end-date. Or to put it another way, for May there is no victory, at all, in this defeat. She’ll be glad to get out of here pronto, as she is set to do this afternoon, with her trip to the G7 in Canada.
PS few of Davis’s friends think he will stay for the long term. They see the compromise with May as no more than a sticking plaster, and say he remains alienated from her Brexit approach.
PPS The end date, of December 2021, IS just an expectation. Even Davis’s closest friends concede he blinked. “He caved, for now” said one. So both he and May are wounded by this row. And I am not sure which of them is more damaged – but probably him.
And if the EU accepts this compromise, we can be wholly confident it is meaningless.
This post originally appeared on Robert Peston’s Facebook page