In doing so May capitulated to those who had criticised the deal she had put together at the Chequers summit just over a week previously.
May caved in to the Tories who see the Chequers deal as a sell-out by accepting four amendments intended to toughen up her negotiating stance.
This surrender to Jacob Rees-Mogg and his followers infuriated pro-EU Tories. They voted against the four amendments, and May won by just three votes in one of the divisions.
She staggered on, but was so desperate to end the torment that she looked likely to bring forward the date for MPs’ summer break.
May’s retreats this week may have halted a vote of no confidence from Tory MPs. But her critics may think it best to hold back and go for her later. None of this stopped some Tories ramping up the pressure. Former Brexit secretary David Davis wrote this week that “British democracy is now at stake”.
Tory MP Nadine Dorries went further by tweeting, “The Chequers deal has disenfranchised voters. People telling me at that if a charismatic figure stood heading a new party, they would vote for him/her. Sounds like we could be heading for our very own Trump/Macron/Robinson.”
It is becoming increasingly clear that any deal that can win a majority in the Commons is likely to be unacceptable to the EU. That means a time of extreme unpredictability and turmoil.
One sentence in the Chequers deal says, “The UK would commit to apply a common rulebook on state aid, and establish cooperative arrangements between regulators on competition.”
This is repeated in the White Paper that followed with a plan for a “common rulebook” enforced and supervised in Britain by the Competition and Markets Authority.
This means that all the rules that restrict nationalisation and support for state-run industries would be maintained after Brexit.
For instance, Royal Mail could not be renationalised without breaching such rules, and nor could the whole of the rail industry.
In March this year, Jeremy Corbyn said in parliament that “The prime minister’s only clear priority seems to be to tie the UK permanently to EU rules that have been used to enforce privatisation.”
But Labour is not concentrating on this now. There is division in Labour over Brexit and the party is trying to keep its internal peace.
It’s urgent that the left and the trade unions cut though the froth and fight for a Brexit that looks after workers, not bosses.
Anti-Brexit groups plan to demonstrate outside the Tory party conference in September.
The largest possible anti-austerity, anti-racist demonstration based on trade unions, campaign groups and socialists must be organised as well.
The opposition to May should not be corralled behind those who back the bosses’ EU.