Should lobbyists just pack up and go home?

Now that the Government has got its way on the Brexit Bill, is it all over for those wanting to see change?

The big political push to get the Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal Bill) through its Second Reading was met with a huge sigh of relief by Government business managers.

It was quickly followed by a successful vote to ensure the Government will have a majority on the Standing Committee that will spend 8 days considering the Bill this autumn.

There’s no doubt that Ministers have done all they can to minimise disruption to the front end of the legislative process.

Those who have criticised this power grab have warned of Ministers abrogating to themselves retrospective ‘Henry VIII’ powers to amend legislation – including this Bill – by fiat.

They also point to the breach of the convention that Bill committees – the legislative sausage-machines – should reflect the balance of power in the House of Commons.

Now they won’t – and the capacity of the House of Commons to influence events will be severely diminished. The Mother of Parliaments has not taken back control.

However, Ministers know that, without these provisions, they would be heading for the most almighty legislative mess. Control at the front end of the process is the best they can hope for.

And it is reflected in their recent appointment of a powerful new Director of Legislative Affairs at the heart of Number Ten, by Theresa May. Flatteringly for this firm, it is former Weber Shandwick staffer and graduate trainee, the widely respected Nikki da Costa.

What lies ahead may be different, however. The House of Lords, suffused with Liberal Democrats, remainers, lawyers and the constitutionally hyper-aware, will likely throw down a gauntlet to this Bill, and it is there that lobbyists should focus their fire.

Already, the European Union Committee in the House of Lords has been engaged in a running spat with Brexit Secretary, David Davis.

And many in the Upper House are already sharpening their pencils on Bill amendments, mindful of the fact that the Government will struggle to enforce the Salisbury Doctrine that Parliament does not vote down manifesto pledges.

Expect the demonisation of our friends in ermine in the pages of the pro-Brexit media as the confrontation between Peers and the Government hoves into view.