Ahh, Valentine’s Day. A day for roses, champagne and, because it’s 2019 and Brexit dominates everything, a humiliating defeat for Theresa May in the House of Commons. (Though if you’re Jeremy Corbyn, it might have been the exact present you were hoping for this February 14).
But what were MPs even voting on? Wasn’t there just a load of votes about Brexit about couple of weeks ago?
Never fear. If you were too busy wining and dining your beloved (or watching Bridget Jones alone in your pyjamas) to keep up with every minuscule update in Westminster, we’ve got your back.
Here’s HuffPost UK’s bluffer’s guide to all the action in parliament this Valentine’s Day (*ahem*).
So, What Were MPs Actually Voting On?
The vote was actually supposed to be a pretty low-key and uncontroversial affair. (But, c’mon, this is Theresa May we’re talking about.)
At the end of last month, MPs voted in favour of two things.
One was a government-backed amendment put forward by Tory backbencher Sir Graham Brady (catchily named the ‘Brady amendment’) which called for the controversial Irish backstop to be replaced by “alternative arrangements”.
The second was the ‘Spelman amendment’ (yup, you guessed it - tabled by Tory MP Caroline Spelman) which sought to rule out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
In a bid to prove to EU leaders that the PM had support in the UK for her attempts to renegotiate the backstop (something the European Union is *not* keen on), the government constructed the Valentine’s Day vote as an opportunity for MPs to re-endorse the plans they voted for just two weeks ago.
But, as with everything involved in the terrifying roller coaster ride that is trying to leave the EU, it was not that simple.
The European Research Group (ERG) – a collective of ardent Tory Brexiteers led by Jacob Rees-Mogg – accused May of trying to use the vote to re-endorse the Spelman amendment, thereby helping to take a no-deal Brexit off the table (something they are very much against).
And, with that, the fragile Conservative truce pieced together over recent weeks was smashed.
As you may have guessed, May was defeated in spectacular form. (303 votes to 258 if you want to be precise.)
Just as they had vowed to do, ERG MPs abstained from the vote, effectively helping Corbyn deliver a cutting blow to the government. Meanwhile, five other Conservatives actively voted against the motion.
In the moments after the defeat – for which May was absent (perhaps she was checking her jam stocks) – Corbyn declared to the House that the prime minister “cannot keep on just running down the clock and hoping that something will turn up that will save her day and save her face”.
What Does It Mean For Theresa May?
The Valentine’s Day vote (or massacre, as it’s now being referred to) was not actually legally-binding.
But the defeat is likely to have left May bruised and blind-sided. Just a few days ago, the PM reportedly told the EU she expected “stable” support for the motion.
While Number 10 spent Thursday warning that a loss would scupper May’s attempts to renegotiate the backstop with the EU, after the vote senior Tory Remainer MPs said they now also fear that the PM is heading for a no-deal Brexit, by accident or by design.
So, all in all, not the best of Valentine’s Days for May - let’s just hope husband Philip didn’t forget to pick up a card on his way home.