The letter from Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk ahead of tomorrow’s vote is not the cavalry arriving. It is more a restatement of what has gone before than anything else. If the EU is to make a big play to help Theresa May’s deal pass it will come before a second vote; as one Secretary of State lamented to me last week the EU has already written off this vote.
But the letter is a reminder that May hasn’t sold this deal as well as she could. As the letter states, ‘the Withdrawal Agreement is also clear that any new act that the European Union proposes should be added to the Protocol will require the agreement of the United Kingdom in the Joint Committee’. In other words, the UK can stop the flow of new laws—even to Northern Ireland—even if it can’t change the existing EU rules and regulations on goods there. So, if the EU decided, for example, to ban driverless cars they could still be produced and driven in Northern Ireland.
The question now becomes: can the government, through the use of amendments, reduce the rebellion enough to keep May’s deal alive? If it can, then May might be able to eke a concession out of Brussels. What. I suspect, will determine if this is the case is if ERG-types are persuaded that it is in their interests to keep May’s deal in play, thereby running down the clock, for as long as possible.