Seven things we learnt during the second ‘meaningful vote’ debate
– Theresa May has legal difficulties
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, the European Research Group’s “Star Chamber” of lawyers and the People’s Vote QCs all dealt blows to the Prime Minister’s deal, concluding there was no right for the UK to unilaterally end the backstop arrangement.
– Tory Brexiteers do not believe in the Prime Minister’s warning of ‘no Brexit’.
A number of leading Leavers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, said they would have backed Mrs May if they thought there was a genuine risk that voting against her would stop Brexit. But Mr Rees-Mogg dismissed the threat as a “phantom”.
– The Prime Minister once again struggled with her voice
In her conference speech in 2017, the coughing and spluttering took place against a collapsing backdrop; in the Commons her croaky throat had to contend with a troublesome backstop.
– Conservatives did not appear to be rallying around the PM in her time of need.
Mrs May’s husband Philip was in the public gallery to offer his support, but several opposition MPs noted that the Tory benches appeared curiously empty during her statement. Labour’s Stephen Doughty said: “PM alone at most critical moment. No doubt all plotting their leadership bids.”
– Michel Barnier is watching
The EU’s chief negotiator tweeted to rebuke MPs, saying that as he was listening to the debate in the Commons “there seems to be a dangerous illusion” that the UK could enjoy a transition period without a Brexit deal. He stressed: “No Withdrawal Agreement means no transition.”
– MPs may not like Theresa May’s deal, but they enjoy thinking up elaborate names for it.
Grant Shapps said a colleague had told him the PM “went looking for a rabbit, but only managed a hamster”. Clive Lewis described it as a “polished turd”, and Andrew Bridgen called it the Hotel California Brexit, because “we’ve checked out but we never actually get to leave”.
– Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has a pithy turn of phrase when his legal integrity is questioned.
When newsreader Jon Snow suggested on Twitter that after he found against Mrs May’s deal, Mr Cox was told to go away and rethink, the Attorney General answered with the single word: “Bollocks.”