Peter Hoskin , DRUGSTORE|AIWA! NO!|Last night, I couldn’t help but settle back, sip wistfully at my hot Ribena, and think: ‘Remember the Chequers deal?’ This was the Brexit plan that Theresa May hammered out with her ministers, amid the wood-panelled splendour of her official country residence, last July, some two years after the Brexit vote itself. There were resignations. There were tweets, posts and articles. Broadcasters jostled to discover what Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage thought. And, in the end, it was all kind of meaningless. The Chequers deal had not, after all, been agreed with or by the European Union.
Like so much of what we’ve seen over the past three years, Chequers was another pointless tour-stop for this carnival of madness. The underlying situation has always been brutally simple: May needed to agree a deal with the EU, and then she needed to get that deal – not some hypothetical, presentational deal – past our own Parliament. She achieved the former back in November. Yesterday, she catastrophically failed to achieve the latter – like, historically catastrophically. You may have already seen the charts showing that May’s parliamentary defeat was basically the worst suffered by a British government in modern times.
If you want to understand the scale of May’s defeat – other than by, y’know, just looking at the scale of it – then look instead at the photos of MPs lining up to vote against her last night. Not only are there a lot of MPs in those shots, but there are also a lot of different types of MPs in those shots; from stolid Conservatives such as Graham Brady to Labour remainers such as Chuka Umunna. Rather than accepting the compromise represented by May’s deal, all sides are rejecting it for their own reasons. The Brexiteers want either a more Brexit-y Brexit or even a no-deal Brexit. The Remainers want to, well, remain, or at least let the public have their say again. None of these things may happen, but they certainly won’t happen if MPs agree to May’s deal now. It would be a full-stop to their hopes, which is why the Prime Minister still faces such a difficult task.