Analysis: Defeat On The EU Withdrawal Bill Is Embarrassing But Not Fatal For Theresa May

But the rebels may have achieved a Pyrrhic victory
PA Wire/PA Images

On Monday, Theresa May seemed to have achieved the impossible and united both Brexit wings of her party behind her Brussels deal.

Two days later, and that divisions are once again plain for all to see.

Despite assurances from David Davis, and May herself, that MPs would get a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal agreed with the EU, Tory rebels were not convinced and tonight have shown that they are not afraid to inflict defeat on their own party.

For May, this is a frustration, an embarrassment, but not a fatal blow by any means.

With such a slim majority, and on such a contentious issue, the odd defeat is to be expected. Having already conceded on Henry VIII powers on Monday, Downing Street will feel they had bent as far as they could.

However, the defeat certainly ends the brief post-deal honeymoon May was enjoying, and she will head to Brussels for the EU summit fully reminded of her slender grip on power.

In terms of the Brexit process itself, this could turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the rebels.

In the minds of those backing the amendment, there is a belief that voting down the deal May brings back from Brussels will send the Government back to the negotiating table.

In reality – and if the negotiating time allowed for by Article 50 has run out – the EU may not want to reopen talks.

MPs may instead be left with the choice of the Government’s deal or leaving on World Trade Organisation terms.

The second scenario is actually favoured by some hard Brexiteers, meaning that this evening those who wanted to water down Brexit have actually strengthened the hand of MPs who want the full-fat version.


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