Friday, 14 December, 2018

British PM avoids Brexit defeat in knife-edge parliament vote

Steven Clarke | 13 June, 2018, 11:22

On the return of the EU Withdrawal Bill for consideration by MPs on Tuesday, the government won all the day's votes as it overturned a series of House of Lords amendments to the key Brexit legislation.

Now the focus shifts to the price of the rebels' compliance, and it could be a high one for the beleaguered prime minister.

But government officials admitted that the concession does constrain their freedom in the Brexit talks.

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme what would happen under Government plans if MPs voted against the deal eventually secured by Mrs May, Mr Davis said: "If they throw it out, well, they throw it out".

Some MPs wanted a meaningful vote to give Parliament a real say - and vote - over the final Brexit deal negotiated by the United Kingdom and the European Union, rather than just accepting whatever is presented by the Government.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland promised to work on the proposal taking into account concerns raised by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, a leading pro-European rebel.

"We will be talking to the government immediately after this in order to find a common way forward. It was the prime minister who I sat in front of this afternoon and who gave us those assurances".

However, despite backing down, pro-Remain Tories signalled they would not be easily consoled by a compromise offered by ministers.

It is expected that Tuesday will see MPs decide whether Parliament should have the power to set the Government's negotiating goals if Theresa May's deal with Brussels is voted down.

"In all conscience, I can not support the Government's decision to oppose this amendment because doing so breaches such fundamental principles of human rights and Parliamentary sovereignty".

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But the cabinet's anxiety about the nail-biting parliamentary arithmetic increased significantly after the resignation of Bracknell MP Phillip Lee, who left his post on Tuesday morning to free his hand to vote against the government.

The government will try to overturn the 14 main amendments and a Brexit minister, Steve Baker, said the government was in talks with lawmakers to find a way around one on the customs union which challenges May's strategy.

"This justifies my decision to resign and makes it a lot less painful".

After a debate with barnstorming speeches from Tory Remainers Ken Clarke, Anna Soubry and Phillip Lee the government was forced to accept it could be defeated.

MPs were told that one parliamentarian had to be accompanied to a public meeting by a six armed police officers because of threats over their stance on Brexit.

It is thought that both the government and the Remainer group of Tory MPs consider the outcome to be a success.

The government says the changes would weaken Britain's negotiating position and is seeking to reverse them in the Commons.

Meanwhile, Tory Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin told the government he would not accept ministers agreeing to Mr Grieve's demand for the House of Commons to assume control of Brexit negotiations in the event of no deal.

Crucially, ministers have conceded that if MPs vote down the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels, that will not result in the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union with no deal - a scenario that few MPs would countenance because of the significant economic damage it would entail. At this point, the main way in which a no-deal Brexit might happen is if the process simply runs out of time and the United Kingdom is unable to get Article 50 extended.

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