This is from my colleague Rob Merrick, who was at this morning’s Downing Street briefing for journalists:
The prime minister’s spokeswoman provoked confusion about the extent of the new offer the PM is willing to make to MPs, ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
Earlier, Ms May confirmed she was exploring how to bolster “the role of parliament” in deciding, in June 2020, whether the UK should extend the post-Brexit transition – beyond December 2020 – or enter the Irish “backstop”.
However, the spokeswoman said this did not stretch to seeking to reopen the withdrawal agreement, which the EU has also insisted is sealed and final.
“We have been clear that the withdrawal agreement is final and agreed,” she said.
It appears unlikely that many Brexiteers will be swayed by a stronger say in the 2020 decision, unless the agreement itself can be changed.
Crucially, it says the decision will be taken jointly by a committee of the UK and the EU – despite the prime minister calling it “a choice” for Britain.
Furthermore, as Philip Hammond, the chancellor, confirmed moments later, it will be the “default” to enter the backstop, at the end of the planned 21-month transition.
It also appears that, even if the transition is extended, the UK would automatically enter the backstop no later than the end of 2022 – the limit for any extension.
Asked about any new offer on the backstop, the spokeswoman said: “The prime minister is aware of the strength of feeling about this issue and is speaking to her colleagues to explain how parliament can have a greater say.”
It is understood the government is also exploring other possible concessions, to try to head off a devastating defeat next Tuesday.