Unfathomable procedural wrangling over the wording of complex motions; an unsatisfactory debate in which the main proponents try to score cheap points off each other; unverified reports about possible resignations on both sides – and then an even more unhelpful argument about the precise meaning of Theresa May’s latest defeat – albeit in a symbolic vote – and where it leaves her authority.
Yesterday’s exchanges were no different. Today’s fallout will be just the same with the EU even more reluctant to make concessions when there is no unity in the Commons. And, just as night follows day, the next debate will follow the same pattern as MPs – tasked with resolving this country’s exit from the European Union in exactly seven weeks time – go round in circles before the same faces rehash the same arguments on the same TV networks.
No wonder the public either switch off from Brexit – or become even more despondent about the inability of MPs on all sides to work in the national interest to ensure a deal is in place which honours the June 2016 referendum vote.
And while it is right that Ministers are questioned by MPs, Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, had barely begun his opening remarks, or started constructing an argument, before he was taking interventions – some more pedantic than others – from backbenchers more intent on making negotiations harder for the PM than trying to help her to find a way to break the current impasse.
It’s not a game. Businesses and families need clarity so they can plan for the future. They want decisions, not indecision, as leading firms look to relocate overseas. And yet the only certainty, after another tortuous week which has failed to achieve a breakthrough, is even more uncertainty – the last thing that the country needs at this particular juncture.