Delay puts Brexit storm on pause - for now

Conservative MPs in Commons on Thursday Image copyright UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Take a breath. That was more or less the prime minister's message to MPs in the Commons today.

We've all just lived through a historic political period when the levels of anger and anxiety and frustration and fury have gone up and up and up and up in Westminster, and maybe beyond.

Up until this moment, the prime minister has simply been unable to deliver the support for her compromise deal with the EU.

Parliament has not managed to agree a consensus around anything else.

And both sides - for it has felt like the Executive versus the Commons - have become more and more irritated as time has ticked down towards this week's deadline.

The Brexit delay that the EU has agreed gives Westminster's village a pause, a moment to take a breath, and maybe to take stock.

The EU has placed a little faith in the idea that there could be a cross-party compromise.

Whispers suggest that ministers will meet Labour counterparts on Friday and are telling business leaders tonight that there could be a bespoke deal for the UK, if those cross-party talks can deliver.

Image copyright UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

So, the screaming alarm, warning against leaving with no deal in a few hours' time, has been silenced, at least for now.

And while there is, inevitably, rising chatter about ushering Theresa May out of office, it seems clear that none of the candidates who would love to replace her, want to be the person to take over right now.

Whether it is Dominic Raab, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Liz Truss, or someone else on the long list of potential candidates, none appear on the point of jumping forward to say: 'This is a slow-motion disaster, I have a better idea.'

Ironically, none of the people at the top levels of the Tory Party who believe they could lead, want to do it at this moment - where arguably, leadership has never been so in demand.

The prime minister won a delay, and got through yet another bumpy session in Parliament on Thursday without too much harm.

But the policy clashes, the battle of ideas, and yes, the grudge matches, have not been played out to their conclusion.

For Brexit therefore, and for all of us, there is no sign of conclusion.

MPs might come back in ten days, clear-headed and ready for compromise on all sides.

But our political system's track record on Brexit suggests that a moment of harmony is still out of reach.

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