Today truly is the Brexit day of destiny. It’s the day that Theresa May’s withdrawal deal with the European Union is put to the test, and MPs have an opportunity to vote for or against it.
The final day of debates began earlier in the day, beginning with attorney general Geoffrey Cox who gave an impassioned speech for around an hour. Cox was interrupted many a time, initially refusing to take interventions but soon being forced to break his flow and answer questions from MPs on the other side.
I’ve never seen a speech in Parliament quite like it. Theresa May sat with her watchful eye, just over his shoulder, as he poetically described the benefits of the Prime Minister’s deal and how MPs would be judged in the history books if they fail to support this Brexit deal.
His narrative echoed that of the Prime Minister, explaining that Brexit was less likely to happen at all, than for a No Deal scenario to occur. It was quite obvious what he was doing – the Attorney General was attempting to win over Brexiteers in the Conservative Party in the hope that they’d change their minds last minute and stop May’s crushing defeat in the afternoon.
One Tory MP has done exactly that, in fact. Sir Edward Leigh, a Brexiteer, explained on Sky News this morning why he’s decided to support Theresa May’s deal after all. He told the cameras that he didn’t want to vote alongside the Labour Party and the SNP, and that Remainers have now taken control of Parliament. In his mind, it’s better to support May’s deal to ensure that some kind of Brexit at least happens. While I see the logic there, I just can’t bring myself to support such a terrible deal that gives so much away. Mrs. May and her party are very aware that not delivering Brexit would be a huge betrayal – she has said it plenty of times already – and so I struggle to believe that no Brexit is more likely than no deal.
Opposition MPs noticed the scheme in the Commons this morning, too. One MP stood up and asked why the Attorney General had spent so much time addressing the concerns of his party, rather than addressing the concerns of the House. The obvious answer, of course, is that the concerns of the House are less important for Mrs. May. She wants to win over only those who can realistically be won over.
Now, we wait – not so much to see the results of the vote, but to see the magnitude of her defeat.