As ever, trying to tease out Theresa May's real objective is the riddle at the heart of this latest Brexit development. Using the threat of a vote on No Deal to coax Remainers into voting for the deal wouldn't make any sense, because everyone knows parliament will vote against No Deal anyway. So logically that only leaves the possibility that the threat is intended to bring Brexiteer Tory MPs back on board. But even if that worked, would it actually produce a majority for the deal? There's been a theory that the deal might go through thanks to a coalition of spooked Tory Brexiteers and self-styled "responsible" Labour rebels. But the main reason a fair number of Labour MPs were thinking of backing May was to prevent No Deal, and if everyone knows that a vote the next day will produce a thumbs-down to No Deal, that reason diminishes somewhat. So I think we still have to assume that the likelihood is that the Commons will vote down the deal again, albeit probably by a significantly narrower margin than before.
Once again today, we've been treated to a depressing display of slipperiness and imprecision in the way that journalists have reported the latest twist. The BBC website claims that the vote on the day after the deal is rejected would be on "ruling out no deal". My understanding is that it would actually be about avoiding a No Deal exit in March, but wouldn't seek to remove the option of No Deal at a later date. And in any case, it's not actually in parliament's gift to rule out No Deal (unless it revokes Article 50 altogether). Any extension would have to be agreed with all of the other 27 EU member states, and the mood music suggests that the EU would only grant a temporary extension if the UK has come up with a credible Plan B. If there is no clear alternative way forward, the EU would be looking for a very lengthy extension lasting almost two years. As things stand, there is no sign of a Plan B, and May has ruled out an extension beyond the end of June, so once again we're heading for a direct collision between two irreconcilable positions, with No Deal on 29th March remaining the default outcome if neither a deal nor an extension is agreed.
Avoiding No Deal is in the mutual interest of both the UK and the EU (although it's obviously more important to the UK side), so you'd think some sort of halfway house compromise on an extension would be the most likely outcome, although at the moment it's murderously hard to see what form that could possibly take, especially if the Prime Minister is as hellbent as she says she is on avoiding UK participation in the European Parliament elections in May.