Late last night, there was a sense of optimism among ministers that the government’s revised deal might have a chance. But those hopes were crushed this morning by Geoffrey Cox’s blunt legal advice. With Cox declaring that the legal risk was unchanged, the DUP were never going to back the deal and that meant the bulk of the ERG wouldn’t either.
In the end, the withdrawal agreement went down by 149 votes—at the worst end of expectations. May immediately declared that there would be a vote on no deal tomorrow, and it would be a free vote. May’s justification for this was the referendum precedent, but for the governing party to have no position on the most important issue to come before the Commons in years is remarkable.
No deal will almost certainly be voted down tomorrow. The Commons will then on Thursday likely vote for the government to request an extension to Article 50.
Cabinet ministers suspect that even after the size of this defeat there might be another meaningful vote on this deal. Their logic is that the ERG will surely see that an extension will only lead to, at the least, a softer Brexit. But the sixty-odd Tory Brexiteers who voted against May’s deal seem remarkably unconcerned about what will follow the rejection of May’s deal.