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EU reforms: No open insurrection - yet

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter


Think of all the hours, days, surely months the House of Commons has spent debating our fraught relationship with Europe.

Think of the sweat and tears, if perhaps not the actual blood on the walls that politicians have given over the issue.

And yet today, as the prime minister presented what could be a major change to our relationship with the EU, there was criticism of his draft deal yes, but open insurrection? Not really.

Why? Well the prime minister has silenced those ministers who favour EU exit for now. They are still bound by the vow of collective responsibility - it's not clear the truce will hold but today it did.

And while MPs don't think the deal is a marvellous triumph, Number 10 has spent a lot of energy trying to manage the disagreements behind the scenes, and since winning the general election the prime minister can trade on more loyalty from his backbenches than he did under the coalition.

But it's also worth noting that for many MPs in the House of Commons the bitter feuds over Europe belong to a bygone era.

Most Conservatives who have arrived in the last five years might be categorised as what one minister described to me as "soft sceptics".

They don't really like the EU, but nor is restoring Britain's sovereignty what gets them up in the morning.

And by hinting heavily today the government is preparing to publish a new law that would attempt to ensure that UK law could not be overturned by the European Court, the prime minister may bring some more waverers, potentially Boris Johnson, on board.

There are, though, plenty of MPs who will oppose the PM's deal and campaign for exit. When the referendum campaign gets past these initial skirmishes the mood could of course change, and change very quickly.

But today at least, the prime minister has managed to keep a lid on most of the public dissent.