According to one report at the weekend, when Theresa May went to Brussels on Monday last week to finalise a Brexit deal, only to see it kiboshed by the DUP, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, reprimanded her with the words: “You can’t come here to negotiate if you don’t have a mandate.” Number 10 deny that Juncker said it, but if he didn’t, he should have done; the phrase summarises well the problems a leader has in an international negotiation if she cannot carry parliament.
That’s one reason why the timing of last night’s Commons defeat was so unfortunate for May. This afternoon she is off to Brussels for an EU summit.
That said, it is important not to over-state the importance of the vote. It may have a significant impact on the parliamentary dynamics in the Brexit process – May now knows she cannot guarantee she will always get her way in the Commons – but in practical terms the impact the Dominic Grieve amendment has on how ministers handle the withdrawal process may be limited.
And this morning ministers are stressing that Brexit carries on. Speaking on the Today programme, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt (a remain voter, but not a “remoaner” – he is now quite enthusiastic about Brexit) said the government defeat would not derail the process. He told the programme:
I don’t think it should be a surprise that in a hung parliament, parliament wants to reassert its right to scrutinise the process. But we should also be clear this isn’t going to slow down Brexit, it’s not going to stop Brexit.
Hunt also played down the idea that, if parliament were to reject aspects of the withdrawal agreement, Brussels would offer a better deal. Asked if MPs could force the government to go back to the negotiating table by voting against what was on offer, he replied:
Parliament can say whatever it wants but of course renegotiation is something that involves two parties.
We will be hearing from David Davis, the Brexit secretary, when he takes questions in the Commons soon. And we will also hear from May herself, who is in Brussels later, and the leading cabinet Brexiter Boris Johnson, who is giving a press conference this afternoon.
Here is the agenda for the day.
8.50am: Justine Greening, the education secretary, gives a speech at a Reform thinktank conference on social mobility.
9.30am: David Davis, the Brexit secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
9.30am: NHS England waiting time figures are published.
2.05pm: Derek Mackay, the Scottish finance secretary, presents his draft budget in the Scottish parliament.
2.30pm: Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, hold a press conference with their Japanese counterparts after talks in Greenwich.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to post a summary at lunchtime, and another in the afternoon.
You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here.
Here is the Politico Europe round-up of this morning’s political news from Jack Blanchard’s Playbook. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’ top 10 must reads.
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