Boris Johnson is in ‘glutinous emollience’ mode today. His opening statement in the debate was not combative but an attempt to cajole and persuade. He said that he would draw on the talents of the whole House in the next stage of the negotiations. In response to Philip Hammond, he accepted the Nandy / Snell amendments which would enable parliament to set the government’s approach to the next stage of the negotiations with the EU. Even when calling on Oliver Letwin not to move his amendment—which threatens to muddy the waters today as Katy explains—he stressed that he thought Letwin was motivated by good intentions.
But if the Letwin amendment does pass later, then I think Number 10—if not Johnson’s—tone will change. They will say that it proves that this is an obstructionist parliament that can’t do anything other than back more ‘dither and delay’. The government will then bring a meaningful vote on Tuesday and, crucially, a programme motion that will put the withdrawal agreement bill on track to pass through all its Common stages by October 31st allowing Boris Johnson to meet his ‘do or die’ pledge.