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Tuesday 15 January 2019

The day has finally arrived. This evening, MPs will vote on the government’s deal on withdrawal from the EU. As stated many times on this blog, the defeat will be humiliating, it is merely a question of how big the margin will be.

Debating begins at 12.50pm, the prime minister will deliver her closing remarks at 7.00pm before voting on amendments gets underway and eventually the meaningful vote itself, perhaps as late 9.30pm.

As things stand, 423 MPs – the opposition parties, the DUP and more than a hundred Conservatives – will vote against with just 198 favouring the terms struck with Brussels. The so-called “meaningful vote” is set to be the largest defeat since the beginning of the last century. Not since 1924 has a government lost by triple figures, that too was a minority administration – which is now the case in 2019 due to the dismal deal having alienated the Ulster Unionists – under Ramsay McDonald and occurred successively. What are the bets on that happening to May? She currently hopes to run her deal through the Commons again and again until it succeeds. The pro-Remain Speaker, John Bercow may have different ideas.

Unsurprisingly, there’s speculation Mrs May will resign in the event of a heavy defeat. Given that we’re already expecting exactly that – 225 to be precise – it would have to be an absolute thumping, not outside the realms of possibility either.

“If she loses by more than 100 votes, and it looks like there is no way of persuading more than a few Tory rebels to change their minds, that would be pretty disastrous for the PM and hard for her to carry on,” a Cabinet source told the Telegraph.

“But if she lost by 100 or so votes and there were 80 or 90 rebels who might change their mind if she could get something meaningful from Brussels, then it’s possible she could stay on.”

That’s a big if. There’s talk this morning of the EU getting Dublin to pledge to a time-limit on the backstop, the feature of May’s deal that makes it so unacceptable (although there’s plenty else wrong with it). Whatever comes down the line, it is likely to be as unbinding as yesterday’s assurances made by EU Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk conveyed in this letter and intended to leverage May a few extra votes.

Inauspiciously, the assurances are prefaced with the line: “As you know, we are not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with the Withdrawal Agreement”

Juncker and Tusk go on to reiterate the EU’s “firm commitment” to not trigger the backstop in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland. If they fail (hardly reassuring) the European Union “would use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop,” which sounds a lot like folding Britain in the Customs Union and the Single Market on a permanent as well as formal basis.

“There is nothing new. Nothing has changed,” complained Sammy Wilson (see quote of the day below) a line parroted by everyone currently in opposition to the government, which at the moment seems to be everyone.

Jeremy Corbyn was one of those parrots. The Labour leader will table a motion of no confidence in the government as soon as tonight’s vote is concluded. Labour MPs have been told to prepare themselves for a ballot on Wednesday, after Prime Minister’s Questions.

Finally, the House of Lords, which was not mandated by the EU (Withdrawal) Act to hold a vote on the government’s negotiated deal, but did so any way, decimated May’s deal last night, 321-152.

A sign of things to come? Let’s hope so.

Quote of the day: “We fought a terrorist campaign to stay part of the United Kingdom. “We are not going to allow bureaucrats in Brussels to separate us from the rest of the United Kingdom, either constitutionally or economically. There can be no ground given on that.” Sammy Wilson.

Housekeeping: To catch up on last night’s action in the Commons, which carried on until 2.00am, ensure to scroll through Leave.EU’s Twitter feed. Likewise, we’ll be posting everything and anything throughout the day and into the night.

Also, yesterday, we launched our campaign to get shameful Tory MPs like Nick Boles, Nicky Morgan and Oliver Letwin deselected. Click here to learn more.