Plotting and scheming afoot as PM's options narrow

Theresa May at the switching-on of the Downing Street Christmas tree Image copyright Getty Images

It's seemed almost hard to move anywhere without running into a minister on a mission - tasked to promote a Brexit plan that's widely judged to be doomed to defeat in the Commons on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the bars and the tea rooms in Parliament have been quietly humming with the sound of plotting and scheming.

For some, about how to take control of Brexit. For others, how to grab the keys to Number Ten.

While no-one can be sure of anything just now, none of the outcomes being discussed by MPs look anything but grim for the prime minister and her plan.

Some MPs are wondering: might a narrow defeat next week mean she could try to squeeze more out of Brussels? She might try, but the signs are the EU's all out of big concessions.

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Theresa May is taking a huge gamble over Brexit agreement

Theresa May Image copyright Getty Images

They've agreed on a draft of an agreement, and this time Downing Street's ready to sell it to the Cabinet. Or at least try. The time for tinkering and bartering has run out.

So by the time ministers gather around the Cabinet table tomorrow (Wednesday), Theresa May will know whether there'll be empty seats - left by resigning Brexiteers - when the time comes to start selling the plan to the party and to Parliament.

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Has Budget changed the Brexit landscape?

Philip Hammond Image copyright AFP

Chancellor Philip Hammond will have known his Budget would be seized upon by Conservative colleagues and, as one put it to me, "shouted about, and plastered over leaflets that'll be pushed through thousands of letterboxes in marginal seats this weekend".

He can't have known it would split the Labour Party the wholly unexpected way it has.

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An uncomfortable moment for Raab?

Dominic Raab Image copyright EPA

This didn't seem a comfortable moment for Dominic Raab.

The Brexit secretary campaigned for Leave, and is a true believer in the cause. Yet here he was, setting out plans to cope with a British failure to reach the kind of deal Brexiteers once claimed would be easy to accomplish.

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Brexit: What we know about May's compromise trade plan

Boris Johnson (left), David Davis (centre) and Gavin Williamson (right) leaving Tuesday's cabinet meeting Image copyright AFP
Image caption Theresa May has to square her cabinet colleagues behind the plan

So, finally, Theresa May has found a way. Not to get Brexit over the finishing line, obviously. But at least out of the starting block. Or so she hopes.

Not to unite the Cabinet. No-one could do that. But at least to herd most of them into line behind her. Or so she hopes.

Read full article Brexit: What we know about May's compromise trade plan

Brexit: Theresa May being urged to 'take back control'

Theresa May Image copyright Reuters

How tough is Theresa May? She has a death stare which makes Gordon Brown look, by comparison, like the kind of prime minister who'd be dead-legged by a nine-year-old in a school playground.

But is she as tough as she looks? Or is Mrs May merely stubborn? And cautious? And rather indecisive?

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Brexit: Customs union plan brewing in Whitehall

Theresa May Image copyright Getty Images

If Brexit looks like a political nightmare for Theresa May, it's because it is one; a nightmare she volunteered to endure the day she chose to run for PM.

"It goes with the territory," she told a colleague who offered sympathy recently.

Read full article Brexit: Customs union plan brewing in Whitehall

Theresa May looks set to take action on Syria without consulting MPs

Theresa May Image copyright Getty Images

It's an understatement to say Theresa May tends not to rush into difficult, sensitive decisions.

She's spent pretty much her entire premiership living on a diet of awkward dilemmas and tough decisions. In just about every case, the May way has been to chew thoroughly before swallowing.

Read full article Theresa May looks set to take action on Syria without consulting MPs

Syria response is a challenge and test for Theresa May

Theresa May in Copenhagen Image copyright EPA

Theresa May's flying Scandinavian tour - Denmark and Sweden in less than 24 hours - was supposed to be routine. As if...!

The prime minister's meetings with her counterparts in Copenhagen and Stockholm were wholly overshadowed by the alleged chemical attack in Syria: a challenge and a test not only for the Western powers and their allies, but for British global influence and for Mrs May herself.

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So can Theresa May now survive the Brexit course?

Theresa May and Britain's Permanent Representative to the European Union Tim Barrow Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The PM with senior UK official Tim Barrow

Listen carefully. The strange sound of rushing air you can hear in the background, as Britain continues its slow march towards Brexit, is a deep collective sigh of relief.

Ministers, officials and business leaders - the latter group puffing out their cheeks more than anyone - wanted, needed, to see their wish of a Brexit transition period fulfilled.

Read full article So can Theresa May now survive the Brexit course?