Will Theresa May's Brexit vote go through

In Westminster, just a few hours after Theresa May and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's surprise appearance, conspiracy theories were knitted. The UK government's top legal advisor gave his verdict on Tuesday lunchtime on whether May's last-minute "improvements" to the EU exit agreement were actually legally binding, the Prime Minister said. And whether the kingdom would be able to say in the dispute with the EU after Brexit: The EU is keeping Northern Ireland against our will in the so-called backstop, i.e. in the internal market, we have enough legal recourse to take action against it.

In the evening's lower house vote, many MPs aligned themselves with the verdict of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox: If he had raised his thumb and said May had negotiated a really strong position for the kingdom, the deal could have gone through. But the whole British debate about Brexit suffers from the fact that very few British politicians still believe what they see, say what they think, vote for what is in the interests of the country.

So everything was done, because approval of the exit agreement and a smooth Brexit were no longer the primary goal. The various camps in parliament and government are pursuing greater goals. Some want to force an exit without a contract, others stop Brexit.

The mood is so poisoned, so great is the mistrust that even on the day after the apparent success of May in Strasbourg, the accusation circulated that Cox would lie for May and gloss over the additional regulations. But in the end he actually delivered a judgment that did not harm May, but also did not help: The contract amendments only reduced the risk of a permanent backstop, but nothing more.

So May was back where she had been two days before: depending on the goodwill of her own people. She had achieved a little in the last few meters. Brussels had accommodated her because it wants a success just like May, and because the EU wants to forestall the legend that Brussels was to blame for the Prime Minister's failure. But in the end, the vote showed that none of this was enough.

The Northern Ireland question ultimately overshadowed everything

The Brexiteers and the Northern Irish DUP had always demanded that the Northern Irish backstop had to be finite if it had to be introduced. So they again refused May their consent. The problem behind the whole debate is not a legal one at all.

The fall-back solution for Northern Ireland has long since become a kind of fetish for the opponents of the deal, which overlays everything: the good reasons, for example, why the contract could be in the interests of the British. Keeping at least some promises that Brexit fans made during the referendum campaign. The chance to achieve a regulated Brexit within the deadline chosen by yourself. The realization that there is currently no alternative to the backstop if peace is to be maintained in Ireland.

Theresa May was unable to communicate all of this, so she lost for the second time. The fact that she was unable to enforce the backstop is her greatest failure.