The Tory psychodrama over Brexit bill

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

Image source, Getty Images

Ministers want you to ignore the Tory psychodrama, but frankly, that is what it feels like we are stuck in the middle of.

This is an attempt at a basic summary of what happened - from what I've been told - after a barmy afternoon.

For this to make sense, here's a reminder of what happened earlier in the week.

By about 1400 BST the haggling between Dominic Grieve and the solicitor general, representing the government, was pretty much concluded to Grieve's satisfaction.

The Remain-leaning potential rebels had a version of the promised compromise that saved Theresa May's bacon earlier in the week. And they were happy with it.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Dominic Grieve has described the government's compromise as "unacceptable"

By 1600 BST, that was not the case.

Those pushing for a change were told the government wanted something else, to make the motion "unamendable".

Forget the technicalities, that would basically mean the final "meaningful" vote would, in effect, be a take-it-or-leave-it vote, a potential vote of no confidence in the prime minister.

I'm told they made it crystal clear they would never accept it.

But then, "inexplicably", that ended up in the final version that was published, before they had seen it.

Their suspicion: Brexiteers had put the kybosh on it all.

A senior Brexiteer told me that they were not the ones who had put a spanner in the works. They say they only saw it at the last minute, and weren't involved in haggling over the deal.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Trouble ahead? Theresa May could face another showdown next week

Others beg to differ though, suggesting that they were told the problem was that "Jacob [Rees-Mogg], needed to see it" and it has been suggested that Brexit Secretary David Davis was instrumental in changing the plan.

What does that all mean though?

The hardcore Remainer rebels are apoplectic, feeling they have been betrayed by the prime minister, who has broken the promise she gave them to avoid defeat.

And it sets the scene for another showdown in Parliament next week when the prime minister may find out which side of her party has the stronger resolve.

What happened today is likely to have pushed the two sides further apart.

This whole process is meant to be about the political divorce between the EU and the UK.

At times it is the negotiation between the two sides of the Tory party that are more bitter than any of that could be.