THE parliamentary battle has only just started was the message from Conservative loyalists as the dust began to settle on yet another Commons showdown.

Boris Johnson had been hoping for a straight fight, portraying the parliamentary set-piece event as a “my deal or no deal” choice for MPs.

But Sir Oliver Letwin, the unassuming Tory rebel, had other ideas and while he insisted fervently he supported his party leader in his new deal with Brussels, he wanted a guarantee that between now and October 31 there could be no way that Britain would somehow crash out of the EU deal-less.

And so he tagged on to the Government motion an “insurance policy”; get all the Brexit legislation done and dusted before the Hallowe’en deadline.

Downing St described the move as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

One source explained: “They will keep moving the goal-posts. The majority of those backing this amendment never want that legislation to pass; they want an extension and a chance for a second referendum.

“The amendment is not about conditional approval; it is explicitly withholding approval. The vast majority of the signatories have no intention of voting for a deal and have never done so.”

The Prime Minister tried and tried to get his former Conservative chum, one of the 21 Tories who was unceremoniously sacked last month for defying their leader, to withdraw his amendment with a fireside chat in Downing St. But his fellow Old Etonian would not budge.

And so the spanner was duly inserted and the Government fell to a 322 to 306 defeat.

Opposition politicians, indeed those on the government benches, journalists and the public all believed Mr Johnson was now obliged to send the letter, under the Benn Act, to the EU to ask for an extension.

But the PM raised eyebrows and sparked a degree of bewilderment when he declared from the dispatch box: “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU; neither does the law compel me to do so."

Unusually, No 10 later declined to elaborate with Mr Johnson’s key media interlocutors insisting they could add nothing to their master’s voice.

It seemed clear that what Downing St wanted, at least for a few hours, was headlines screaming how the PM was undaunted and defiant in the face of the Commons defeat. But the expectation was he would write the letter in time for the 11pm Saturday deadline; possibly with an extra note indicating his fingers were firmly crossed.

But the Commons defeat is not the end of the parliamentary story; far from it.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the urbane Commons Leader, popped up following the vote to announce that the Government would be seeking to hold a so-called “meaningful vote” – MV4, following Theresa May’s previous three failed attempts – to get Parliament back on track to support the Johnson Plan.

John Bercow admitted to being “blind-sided” by the move, noting how it seemed something or a ruse to negate what had just happened.

"The apparent purpose of the said motion which ministers are attempting to table is to invalidate or obviate the effect of the decision that the House has reached today and that does seem most curious and irregular,” declared the Commons Speaker.

Over the weekend, he will sit down with his legal team to work out what to do. But it may not be good news for Mr Johnson.

Earlier this year, he prevented Theresa May from holding repeat votes on broadly the same question as she failed to secure support for her own Brexit deal.

So, if come Monday Mr Bercow ascends his parliamentary throne to tell Mr Rees-Mogg that he is out of order, as could well be the case, then the focus turns to Tuesday when it is expected the Government will introduce its new Withdrawal and Implementation Bill, WAIB for short.

Government sources made clear Conservative Party managers in the House intended to use “all means necessary” to get WAIB on the Statute Book by the end of October to fulfil the requirement under the Letwin Amendment.

One very senior Tory close to the PM declared: “The Government is going to push the legislation through around the clock to get it all in place by October 31. The opposition parties can do what they like to disrupt the Withdrawal Bill’s progress but we will break them.”

So, as the so-called Remain Alliance seeks to gum up the parliamentary process putting amendments down here, there and everywhere to slow up the legislation’s process, Government whips will be making sure MPs are up each and every night, and probably over the weekends between now and the end of October to get every stage of WAIB through by the end of October.

As this goes on, Brussels will be watching carefully.

Having received a request for an extension, it is likely to sit on its hands and wait to see if the parliamentary war of attrition at Westminster leads to the legislation being passed by October 31. If it is not, then the likelihood is that on October 29 or 30, it will announce, possibly at a special summit, that it has agreed to a short extension, possibly to January 31 to help facilitate Britain’s parliamentary process and get WAIB on the Statute Book.

So, this weekend the likelihood is that the Tory Party managers will be looking to see how they can increase that base number of 306.

Given the majority against the Government was 16, then theoretically Mr Johnson and his team need to secure just nine switchers.

But, intriguingly, seven MPs did not vote: Conservatives Edward Leigh and Caroline Spelman, former Tory and now Independent MP Anne Milton as well as four Labour MPs Sarah Champion, Rosie Cooper, Melanie Onn and Derek Twigg.

If these seven all swung behind the Government in MV4, then the base number would go up to 313, meaning within the 322 the PM would have to find just five switchers to secure a victory.

As always, Westminster is a numbers game but with a little bit of persuasion here and there the game might not be over just yet for Mr Johnson.