The Speaker of the House of Commons has bounced the Theresa May Brexit deal, potentially completely off the table!
PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW
Theresa May must have had what one can only call an 'emotional moment' when the Speaker of the House of Commons stood up at three thirty and made the statement that unless the PM brought back a motion that was different, or substantially different, from the last ones then he would not allow it to be put before the House again in this parliamentary session.
That will of course, without further changes obtained from the EU, kill off her Withdrawal Agreement surrender document as it stands – stone dead!
And the obvious sign that the government was bounced by this move of the Speaker's is shown by the fact that the Leader of the House had just entered the Chamber, presumably to brief the House on upcoming business, but soon scuttled off again.
Oh, to have seen the looks on the faces of not only Theresa May, but also those of Juncker, Tusk and Verhofstadt as Bercow made his pronouncements.
MPs then quizzed the Speaker for over an hour, with those from both sides of the Brexit debate trying to lever some sort of hint from him as to any leverage contained in the rules that they may have available to them in the coming 11 days left before the UK sails out of the EU on WTO terms.
And the answer seems to be that they should avail themselves of the Emergency Debates procedure at their disposal as provided for within the House of Commons Standing Orders Article 24.
This would allow backbenchers to initiate a debate and vote on an issue as long as the House agrees.
But they would, of course, not in themselves alter or interfere with statute law.
Which as you will all know, still says that the default legal position remains that the UK will leave the EU on WTO terms at 11 pm on the 29th March 2019!
For Brexiteers, they can gain some comfort from statements by the Speaker that future motions and amendments by the Remain side, on such things as second referendums or the house taking control from government, will also be subject to the same reasoning as lay behind this afternoon's ruling.
But it might also mean that the Brexiteer's Malthouse Compromise could now be inadmissible as a motion or an amendment as well, due to the drubbing it got at its last outing.
Now John Bercow has done the nation a great service by exercising his judgment to enforce a rule of the House that prevents a government bullying or intimidating parliament into compliance.
This has happily had the consequence that a UK-destroying treaty will now become a mere footnote in the history books.
It will also save the UK Treasury a lot of bribe money to constituencies in the process.
But we have to bear in mind the Speaker's seeming natural preference for Remaining in the EU and watch his every move in this regard very carefully.
The last thing we need now is for parliament to cause more uncertainty by finding itself empowered to force the UK government to beg the EU for an extension to Article 50 for no reason at all.
But their efforts may well be in vain as the EU has already said there must be a firm reason and aim for so doing.
But our PM has shown a dedication to her Merkel authored Withdrawal Agreement surrender document, that goes far above and beyond any logic or reason. So I have no doubt that she will already be looking for a way to salvage it once again.
The PM will now be making hurried phone calls to Eurocrats and booking flights to Brussels to try and get something out of them that will pass the Speaker's tests, which are based on the guidance within the Erskine May tome on Parliamentary Practice.
We now need to sit back and see what she comes back with, if indeed she does try once again to get meaningful changes to her deal – she might not do so.
We also need to see what the opposition and the Remain camp do in the form of sparking emergency debates and the like.
We also need to be wary of any nuclear option that the government might put forward.
One could be to prorogue parliament for a very short time, while carrying current legislation over, so that a new session is created in which her deal could be put forward again!
Or she could go for broke and offer the house a straight vote between a full WTO Brexit, or fully revoking the Article 50 letter so reversing Brexit totally and permanently.
They do say that a week is a long time in politics, but everything changed for Theresa May in half an hour this afternoon.