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The House decided by 322 votes to 306 to buy an insurance policy from Sir Oliver Letwin.

There could not be a more honest broker. His pitch lasted two minutes, and was devoid of slick salesmanship.

How politely he listened to the rest of the debate. Every so often, as his policy was misrepresented in some grotesque way, a spasm of pain crossed his face, but there was nothing of the rebel in his manner, let alone of the rabble-rouser.

He won the day in part because of his scrupulously unpartisan conduct.

But his victory was not, perhaps, the most exciting outcome to the first sitting on a Saturday since the Falklands War.

We had waited 37 years for this, and in some ways it was a bit of an anticlimax.

After he had sold his policy, Sir Oliver warned his supporters, “our ways are now going to part”. He will vote next week for the Prime Minister’s deal, but knows that should anything go wrong, we cannot now crash out of the European Union without a deal.

So Boris Johnson had already gained one of the extra 14 votes he will need to reach the figure of 320, the point at which he can be sure of getting his deal through.

The Prime Minister did not look unduly downcast after the vote. He rose and said he “will not negotiate” a delay from the EU, and still intends, on the contrary, that the UK will leave on 31st October.

Michael Gove, winding up the brief debate which had taken place before the vote, went out of his way to pay tribute to the many remainers, including Theresa May, the former Prime Minister, and on the Labour benches Caroline Flint, who “now recognise that the people having spoken, that verdict must be respected”.

May herself said that if Parliament did not mean what it said when it said it would implement the referendum result, “then it is guilty of the most egregious con-trick on the British people”.

She added that “if you don’t want no deal you have to vote for a deal”. The present Prime Minister turned towards her – she was standing a couple of yards behind him – thumped in approval the wood running along back of his bench and waved the papers in his other hand.

His predecessor is loyal to him, or as she might prefer to put it, he is loyal to her. Whichever way one phrases it, he is now very close to getting his deal through.

Outside the House, the demonstrators demanding another referendum gave a great cheer when they heard of the Prime Minister’s defeat on the Letwin vote.

They went on making a lot of noise in the afternoon sunshine. Their presence was a kind of compliment to the Commons.

What happens inside the Chamber is known to be of decisive importance, and in that respect, Brexit has already happened.

149 comments for: Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Instead of the Falklands War, Letwin sells MPs an insurance policy

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