No. 10 is saying the chief whip has told them the vote on the EU budget is lost. It would be a pretty embarrassing miscalculation by the whips if that’s wrong. It suggests the rebels may have been sitting on a few more supporters than they let on, and that Labour may have run a very effective whipping operation of their own, making sure just about everyone turns up. But there are backbenchers seeing the PM now – a sign he hasn’t given up. It’s still possible this is dark arts stuff and No. 10 is using the media to secure a last minute victory. The chief whip’s calculations came after the previous vote on a bill, which gave Sir George Young and his team a better idea of how many Labour MPs were knocking around the Commons.

The line from the government is that defeat wouldn’t alter the negotiating position in Europe. Ask them what happens if the PM comes back with a deal parliament votes down, if Labour combines with rebels again in a binding vote to reject David Cameron’s negotiated deal, and you’re told they’re dealing with today only.

If it’s a defeat tonight, it puts great pressure on David Cameron for the end of November negotiations and increases the temptation to fold the whole talks process – easier to live with collapsed talks than a deal you can’t get through parliament, some will argue. There are other pieces in play here though – 26 of them – and if you follow the grumbles from other EU countries about these budget negotiations it’s hard to see how the November talks will come to anything.

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