Cabinet today was not as dramatic as some had expected. No one argued for ministers being allowed a free vote on the Cooper / Boles amendment. Indeed, I’m told the Chief Whip’s plea for ministers to stick to collective responsibility went unchallenged.
Perhaps, the two most interesting contributions came from Jeremy Hunt and David Gauke. Gauke questioned the government’s new approach. He said he was worried that even if the government did get something on the backstop, there still wouldn’t be enough Tory MPs backing the deal for it to pass. While Hunt argued that the best thing for the government to do was to get parliamentary support for a plan on time-limiting the backstop. Having done that, the Foreign Secretary argued, the UK should go back to the EU and say, this is what can pass parliament.
Several Cabinet Ministers agree with Hunt on this, and have been making this argument in private. But what May made of Hunt’s point was not clear. I’m told that her reaction to it was fairly Sphynx-like.