It was a moment of triumph for Theresa May and her merry band of Brexiteers that has been eight months in the making. A time for trumpets, fireworks and flag-waving, surely?
But instead, yesterday’s statement confirming the UK’s historic decision to leave the EU was delivered to a relatively subdued Chamber. MPs on both sides of the Commons fidgeted in their seats or gazed into the post-Brexit nether as the PM announced “there can be no turning back”.
Was it the effect of Philip Hammond’s gloomy appearance on Radio 4 that morning, insisting Britain cannot have its cake and eat it? Or perhaps those Brexit celebrations that MPs were allegedly warned against went on a little later than planned?
Either way, it was not quite the display of jubilant patriotism and democratic empowerment many were expecting or hoping for.
Yes, there were a handful of cheers dotted throughout the speech. And of course there was the obligatory standing ovation and waving of order papers as Mrs May commended her statement to the house. The former Defra Secretary Owen Patterson was among the first to inject some enthusiasm into the debate, predicting “celebrations all around the country”. “Nowhere more so than in our remote coastal communities where health and wealth of our fishing grounds has been trashed by the Common Fisheries Policy,” he declared.
Never one to be outdone, Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg chose to quote Sir Francis Drake as he wished Mrs May “good luck and good fortune in her negotiations”. He went on to encourage the Prime Minister to achieve “true glory”, suggesting this will see her “welcomed back” to the Commons “as a 21st century Gloriana”.
But compared to the exuberant calls to “take back control” from the referendum campaign, the reaction from pro-leave MPs was decidedly downbeat. Perhaps Nick Clegg’s claims that Wednesday marks the day “reality will start to bite” were right after all...