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ANALYSIS: On the meaningful vote, the bad news for Theresa May is that nothing has changed

ANALYSIS: On the meaningful vote, the bad news for Theresa May is that nothing has changed
3 min read

The roasted bird on Theresa May's Christmas dinner table is not the only goose that was cooked over the festive period.

The Prime Minister had hoped that rebel Tory MPs and her DUP partners would use the two weeks away from Westminster to re-evaluate her Brexit deal.

Finally realising that there was no other agreement on the table, and that leaving the EU without a deal was too hideous to contemplate, they would come to their senses and back her plan. Or so the logic went.

But as MPs prepare to return to the Commons on Monday, there seems little evidence that any minds have been changed. If anything, opinions may even have hardened. Those who have previously stated their opposition to May's deal seem as determined as ever to vote it down when the chance comes.

One Brexiteer told PolHome: "Nothing has changed. And here’s your tell for that: if they had anyone, you’d have them. Even this Number 10 - the most useless ever - would have had the wit to wheel out a convert. Had they got one. Even one."

That was a view echoed by former Cabinet minister John Whittingdale, who told the Telegraph: "I don't know of anybody who previously said they aren't and are now willing to vote for it. If those people existed, Downing Street would wheel them out."

Talks between the PM and the DUP, on whom any hope of the deal passing surely hangs, have also proved fruitless.

Nigel Dodds, the party's deputy leader, emerged from the latest round of Downing Street dicussions yesterday to insist that his party's opposition to the Irish backstop remained in place.

Hammering home the point, DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson this morning told the Today programme there was "no way" his party could back the deal.

The EU has also been less than helpful for the Prime Minister over the Christmas break, repeatedly pointing out that the legally-binding withdrawal agreement will not be changed under any circumstances.

Some warm words will be forthcoming from Brussels before the meaningful vote, stressing that it isn't the bloc's intention for the backstop to be anything other than a temporary arrangement. But that will not be enough for May's critics, who have insisted on its removal entirely before they will consider supporting the deal.

The PM will attempt to get on the front foot on Monday by finally unveiling the Government's 10-year plan for the NHS. But just 48 hours later, MPs will once again begin several days of Brexit debate leading up to the big vote.

As things stand, it has no chance of passing. May has no intention of standing down. Her critics have no obvious way of removing her from office. And the clock continues to tick down till Brexit Day on 29 March.

Truly, nothing has changed.

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