Exhausted MPs put Brexit on hold for Easter
"Thank you everybody, and I wish you all a happy and peaceful Easter."
The words of Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz, Labour's shadow leader of the Commons, bidding exhausted parliamentarians a fond farewell as they prepared for a week-and-a-half's worth of respite from Brexit.
It was only 10 days since her opposite number Andrea Leadsom curtly instructed MPs that their Easter jollies would be cancelled so they could continue to “address the exit from the EU”.
It can only be assumed that as no exit has yet occurred, there is simply nothing to address. Certainly nothing that can't wait until April 23.
There were a few brief smiles and an audible sigh of relief around the quarter-filled House, although not everyone was happy.
The small issue of Theresa May agreeing yet another delay to Brexit has irked many a Brexiteer, with Stone's Tory MP Sir Bill Cash the first to let off steam.
The extension was "an unlawful agreement" and an "abject surrender to the EU", he said, that "disgracefully" went against the set leave date and the wishes of the electorate. He wasn't finished.
Half an hour later he was back on his feet, his demand that the House sit for an extra day to debate the issue sparking a brief moment of panic among MPs who already had the holiday brochures out.
"Depriving us of being able to debate is an act of cowardice and chicanery," Sir Bill went on, before accusing Labour of "collusion with the Government".
"The whole thing stinks," he said.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the Commons the mood darkened further.
"She's sunk to humiliating herself and our nation by begging for more time in Brussels," said an increasingly exasperated Michael Fabricant.
For the Lichfield MP – who switched sides to "hold his nose" and back the PM's deal last time over fears that Brexit may never happen – the latest extension appears to be a bridge too far.
The main beneficiary will be Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, he glumly surmised, "who will be able to form a quasi-Marxist government".
Others are already planning ahead. Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski, who now backs the PMs deal said he wants it to go back before the Commons as a form of confidence vote in Mrs May.
"Despite the Fixed Term Parliament Act this should still be considered as the only way possible to break deadlock," he said.
Back in the House the Prime Minister had only been on her feet for a few minutes when she was politely asked if she planned to resign.
Again it was Sir Bill with the question – one that was on the lips of at least half the House – the 78-year-old doing a decent impression of a jack-in-a-box in his zest to be heard.
"I think you know the answer to that," she said, attempting to mask her discomfort with a grin.
Mrs May told MPs she had tried oh so very hard to limit the extension of Article 50 to the end of June, but the EU just wouldn't have it.
It had to be October 31, she said, although talks with Labour would continue, and we could still leave before then if only MPs would finally back the old withdrawal agreement.
Britain may or may not be involved in the European elections, the PM added, her mind surely drifting to the solitude of a walking holiday with Philip in Italy, or Switzerland.
Few MPs seemed interested in wishing her bon voyage. Labour's Wolverhampton South East MP highlighted previous comments from the PM saying "no deal was better than a bad deal".
"This irresponsible rhetoric has helped to normalise these consequences in the minds of the public," he said, asking if she regretted "legitimising an outcome that she knows is bad for the country".
Needless to say, Mrs May stood by what she has consistently said, which has been consistent only in its inconsistency.
Shropshire MP Owen Paterson was not in Parliament having already left for foreign climes – although his was very much a working holiday.
The leading Brexiteer was in Brussels holding discussions with a crew that included the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Iain Duncan Smith and DUP leader Arlene Foster.
The talks – aimed at replacing the Irish backstop in the increasingly unlikely event of a 'no deal' Brexit – were "robust and constructive" according to Mr Paterson.