The Prime Minister’s Questions before an economic statement is usually rather pointless, with both party leaders going through the motions. But this isn’t a usual week, and so Jeremy Corbyn had genuinely important questions to ask Theresa May, and the answers mattered far more than anything Philip Hammond will say shortly.
Naturally, Corbyn didn’t exactly rise to the occasion, delivering his questions as though he’d read them for the first time. But his final demand of the Prime Minister was important: he asked her to tell MPs what her plan was now. May had told the Chamber that because her voice was still coming out as a croak, her answers would be somewhat shorter than usual. She didn’t promise to give somewhat better answers, though, and in keeping with that, her response was merely that the House was going to express its view today and tomorrow. She would be voting for the motion saying the House didn’t want Britain to leave the European Union without a deal.
Later, in response to a question from Tory backbencher Peter Bone, May gave her response to the latest ‘Malthouse compromise’, arguing that the government has already answered three of its four demands, but that the EU has already said it won’t allow a transition period without an agreement. Eurosceptics have been arguing that this compromise amendment is the ladder which May can climb down, but in this session, she made clear that she didn’t think this was a realistic proposal.
So not hugely revelatory, then, other than that May still doesn’t want to set out her plan. If there is a vote in favour of an extension to Article 50, though, it’s unlikely EU leaders will agree to this unless the Prime Minister pitches up with a plan. She seemed very keen to give the impression today that what this plan will be is now down to parliament.