Theresa May wins today's Brexit battle but is losing the war

Credit: PA

Theresa May has won today's Brexit battle but may have lost the war.

What do I mean?

MPs have narrowly rejected the Lords' amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, that would have given parliament the power to force the PM back into negotiations with Brussels if MPs and Lords reject whatever Brexit deal she ultimately negotiates (phew - that was a mouthful).

But the price she is paying for that victory, the price she is paying to Tory Remainer rebels led by Dominic Grieve, is that she has agreed to redraft the Bill, when it returns to the Lords, to take account of the substance of Grieve's own latterly drafted amendment to the bill.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve is a Tory Remainer rebel. Credit: PA

The wheeler-dealing happened in fraught and dramatic negotiations involving Grieve, the chief whip Smith and the solicitor general Buckland, some hugger mugger in corridors, some (unusually) on the floor of the Commons.

May is conceding:

1) That within seven days of May agreeing a Brexit deal, a motion to approve said deal must go to the Commons.

2) That if there is no Brexit deal agreed by 30 November this year, the government must seek approval for its next course of action from MPs.

3) May will consider how to capture Grieve's other demand that MPs and Lords must be able to instruct the government on how to proceed should there be no Brexit deal by 15 Feb 2019.

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Arguably this transfers considerable power to MPs over the shape of a future Brexit deal. And it probably means that a no-deal Brexit is no longer any kind of realistic prospect.

It means that if May really believes she was able to put negotiating pressure on the rest of the EU by threatening to Brexit without a deal, she has lost that leverage.

In other words, one of her favourite catchphrases - that no deal is better than a bad deal - is dead. And that will be official in just a few days, when the bill returns to the Lords.