Brexit was always going to dominate this Spring Statement. Philip Hammond even began by saying he’d keep it short to allow the Commons to move on to the ‘no deal’ debate. But the most eye-catching thing Hammond said on Brexit came at the very end. He talked about the need to build consensus across the House. This is Westminster code for a customs union style solution.
Hammond has been making the case for this approach at Cabinet for quite a while now. But it isn’t yet Government policy—most ministers still think that there is a chance May’s deal could pass in a third meaningful vote. So it was quite remarkable to hear Hammond saying it from the despatch box at the Spring Statement. It is another demonstration of how discipline is breaking down.
With a free vote tonight and collective responsibility shredded, the question becomes whether this is the new normal or will a new Prime Minister be able to return to the status quo ante?