Government loyalists are grim-faced today. There is no sign of a breakthrough in Brussels and Theresa May’s deal appears to be heading for another defeat on Tuesday.
May’s problem is that everyone thinks that they get what they want by voting against her deal. As I say in the magazine this week, lots of ERG types have convinced themselves that they’ll eventually get the Brexit they want, come what may.
If the Brexit deal goes down on Tuesday, the Commons is highly likely to compel the Government to request an Article 50 extension. At that point, the UK will be a supplicant: it’ll be up to the EU to decide whether to grant one, how long it will be for and what conditions are attached.
Any significant delay would lead to a fresh attempt by Letwin and co to have the Commons take control of the process. They might force parliamentary votes on various Brexit options as an exercise to see what could command a majority. They would then seek to compel the Government to implement the result.
All this would lead to a softer Brexit than May’s deal. Note Jeremy Corbyn’s warm words after meeting the Norway Plus group of MPs, who want the UK to be in both the single market and a customs union with the EU. But at the moment there’s little sign of anywhere near enough ERG types moving for May’s deal to pass.