It was the middle of December 2018, with 100 days to go before the UK was due to leave the EU. Parliament was supposed to have had a ‘meaningful vote’ on the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) negotiated by the EU and Theresa May. If parliament failed to approve the WA and nothing else happened, the UK would exit with No Deal (ND) and economic and social chaos would follow. It was therefore vital that this vote took place to move things forward, but after days of debate the government ‘pulled’ the vote, which simply meant it didn’t happen. May now says it will happen in the second half of January.
There was no good reason to delay the vote. It was done because the government was certain it would lose. Much better, the executive decided, to play for time and hope that in January the prospect of ND would scare a few more MPs into voting for the WA. Few politicians have risked the future of their country in such a major way just to try and win a vote, but that was not all. The government also approved billions in spending to prepare for ND. Billions that might not have needed spending if the government had allowed a vote, and MPs had subsequently agreed some way through this impasse.