One more step along the road to Brexit

Christian May
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High Court Is Told That Theresa May Has No Legal Power To Start Brexit
Brexit will be “red, white and blue” as opposed to black, white, hard or soft (Source: Getty)

The Great Brexit dance continues. Yesterday, the Labour party rediscovered its opposition role and bounced the government into accepting demands that it set out its Brexit plans to parliament. Fearing that dozens of Remain-backing Tory MPs would support the Labour motion, No 10 agreed to go along with it.

The shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer hailed the move as “a welcome and hugely significant climbdown.” Steady on, Starmer. It's not as if he's forced May to spill the beans on an entire negotiation strategy. Indeed, No 10 was last night particularly coy about what exactly “setting out its plans” would entail. It may not amount to much more than “we intend to make a success of it.”

Read more: PM bids to head off rebel Tories by agreeing to publish some Brexit plans

So far the closest the PM has come to outlining the plan was yesterday's colourful assertion that Brexit will be “red, white and blue” as opposed to black, white, grey, hard or soft. In other words, details are still scarce. It was, however, a canny move by the government to tack on an amendment that Labour could hardly vote against. After all, the opposition is in enough difficulty without manoeuvring to block Article 50. That kind of thing can be left to the LibDems. All nine of them.

While last night's parliamentary chess could be chalked up as a no-score draw, it does represent another small step down the road to Brexit – even if the final destination hasn't yet come into view. May seems to have deflected the latest effort to force on her an embarrassing Commons defeat, but the battle has merely been delayed, not won.

Read more: Brexit vote hits deal numbers in third quarter

Meanwhile, cruising high above the political games being played outside, the Supreme Court continued to ponder the verdict laid down by the High Court before it. If the judges agree that MPs must have a vote on triggering Article 50, much of the groundwork could have been laid by May's concession yesterday.

Furthermore, Brexit-backing MPs are reasonably confident that the Commons would vote in support of any such bill. Businesses are still in the dark about what Brexit will look like, but with the EU hardening its stance on the negotiation timetable and the judges set to deliberate over Christmas, they may not have much longer to wait.

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