Yesterday the Government published an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill adressing the concerns of pro-EU Conservative backbenchers that Parliament should have a say on the final Brexit deal.
According to the new Government amendment the Prime Minister must make a statement in Parliament within 14 days if she announces before January 21 2019 no deal has been reached with the EU either on the withdrawal agreement or the future relationship.
However, it is understood the Government has made it “unamendable”, meaning Mrs May could turn it into a confidence vote.
Under these circumstances, the Prime Minister or a minister must make a statement in Parliament within two weeks and give MPs an opportunity to vote.
The vote would be on “a motion in neutral terms”, merely stating that the House has considered the statement.
And Remainers, many who earlier in the day heralded a victory over Brexit, now feel they have been duped after Theresa May’s concession.
It has been a chaotic week for Mrs May so far as she looks to make quick progress with Brexit negotiations.
Following the announcement Remain-backing Tory backbencher Anna Soubry said the Government’s amendment would not meet the rebels’ requirements.
Ms Soubry in a tweet said: ”I understand the Govt has tabled an amendment that has not been agreed by Dominic Grieve.
“Grateful for the conversations but without consultation what was agreed earlier today has been changed.”
Meanwhile, it is understood that Viscount Hailsham has tabled an amendment in the House of Lords along the same lines as the proposals put forward in the Commons earlier this week by former attorney general Dominic Grieve.
Remainer Mr Grieve’s amendment would have given Parliament the power to dictate the next steps if the Government failed to achieve a Brexit deal by February 2019.
It was not put to a vote on Tuesday, though, after Theresa May met potential rebels to assure them of concessions.
Yesterday, a deal was said to have been struck with Mr Grieve, who resisted such an amendment to a vote after the Government pledged to discuss giving MPs a greater role in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
But now Mrs May has insisted the expected ‘meaningful vote’ cannot ‘overturn the will of the British people” expressed in the 2016 referendum vote to quit the EU.
Theresa May has come under pressure after Tory rebels reject her meaningful vote amendment
Earlier, Brexit Secretary David Davis was said to be considering “guerrilla” tactics to oust her with a ‘no confidence’ vote, after Mrs May’s late concession to Tory rebels was said to have ended chances of a ‘no deal’ exit from Brussels.
But Mrs May defended this concession, insisting the Government would “deliver for the people” in a fiery showdown with Jeremy Corbyn during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
It saw her position weakened when she was forced into a climbdown on a ‘meaningful vote’ to avoid a shattering deafeat in the Commons.
Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Mr Davis warned a second referendum risked causing “division and strife” in the UK.
He told MPs that he cannot accept any amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill that would allow Parliament to instruct the Government on how it should proceed with negotiations as it would be “constitutionally unprecedented”.
He said: “As we made clear in the debate this week on the Lords’s ammendments to the Exiting the European Union Bill, we cannot accept ammendments allowing Parliament to instruct the Government on what steps it should take in international negotiations, as that undermines on of my three tests.
“Such a move would actually be constitutionally unprecedented. The current constitutional arrangement have served this country well for hundreds of years over thousands of treaties.
“And I have to say to those who have argued for something different, did not argue for the House of Commons to negotiate directly our accession to the European Union or indeed the Lisbon Treaty or the Amsterdam Treaty or the Maastricht Treaty and so its rather odd they make such an argument now.”
David Davis faced a barrage of Brexit questions from MPs in the Commons this morning
David Davis was asked why he had only met Michel Barnier twice in six “crucial” months
The Brexit Secretary said any Government offer must meet three conditions: that it respects the Brexit referendum result; does not interfere with the negotiations; and does not alter the consitutional principle that the Government, not parliament, negotiates treaties.
He also acknowledged it had been an important week for Brexit, adding the EU Withdrawl Bill would return to the House of Lords as a much better piece of legislation because of this week’s debates and votes in the Commons.
But during the question session in the Commons, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer mocked Mr Davis as he pushed for further details of the Government’s compromise with Tory rebels.
MPs heard the Brexit Secretary had only met the EU’s chief negotiator three times this year – once in February, at a press conference in March, and earlier this week.
Speaking during Brexit questions, Sir Keir said of Mr Davis: “It’s very good to see him in his place.
“I’ve done a quick tally, I think this year he’s threatened to resign more times than he’s met Michel Barnier.”
Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield asked why, until last Monday, Mr Davis had only met Mr Barnier twice in six “critical” months.
He said: “Is it because paralysis in the Cabinet leaves him with nothing to say, or is it simply because he’s been sidelined by officials closer to the Prime Minister?”
Mr Davis replied: “Isn’t it wonderful having the Labour Party of all people trying to accuse us.
“I just read a tweet this morning where the Labour whips office were celebrating the fact that only 75 Labour members rebelled against the motion yesterday.”
Tory MP for Clacton Giles Watling, who voted Remain in the EU referendum, also asked: “Do you agree with me that unity in strength is the only way forward and that holding a second referendum would be expensive madness, leading to further division and strife?”
Mr Davis replied: “Not only would it lead to division and strife, as you put it, it’d also create an incentive for the European Union to give us the worst deal possible.”
Reports have suggested the next Chequers away day for the cabinet is July 5 and 6, which fits with earlier speculation the trade bill present on July 9.
Mr Grieve was also today accused of attempting to derail Brexit after he was spotted attending a meeting of anti-Brexit campaigners in Smith Square in London on Tuesday evening.
The event was attended by pro-European figures including Liberal Democrat peers, Tony Blair’s former sin doctor Alastair Campbell, and anti-Brexit campaign groups Best for Britain, People’s Vote, and Ooen Britain.
Mr Grieve was attending a meeting entitled Where next for Brexit?, and its agenda was marked as “in confidence”.
It was described as an “informal forum connecting the main operational UK pro-EU organisations and individuals” and was held under the Chatham House Rule which allows for discussions to be held behind closed doors.
Dominic Grieve was accused of trying to derail Brexit
Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg commented on Mr Grieve’s attendance, saying: “Dominic should be careful about the company he keeps if he wishes to maintain his position that this is not about stopping Brexit.
“He is someone I trust and when he says he is not trying to frustrate Brexit I believe him but the people he is associating with are clear they do want to stop Brexit.
“If you sup with the devil you should use a long spoon and he is using an egg spoon.”
Sir Bill Cash, the chairman of the Commons European scrutiny committee, said: “It’s clear that Mr Grieve is consorting with those people who are all intent on reversing Brexit.
“It makes his claim that he is trying to be helpful to the Government transparent nonsense.”
But Mr Grieve told the Press Association “there was no conspiracy”.
He added: “I went along to speak at a meeting.
“I often go to meetings to speak at people’s invitation and that’s what I did.
“The meeting had been called by one of my Conservative colleagues to discuss how the process of Brexit was unfolding and to seek a briefing from me as to how I thought the dynamics were playing out in Parliament.”
Carwyn Jones has urged Theresa May to overcome her “fear of a few backbenchers”
Mr Grieve said he bleieved the meeting had been held at Europe House because it was organised by an MEP.
The building is used by the European Parliament as well as the European Commission, which said it had nothing to do with the meeting.
Mr Grieve added: “I told the meeting what I say publicly all around the place.
“Look at my lectures, go on my website, have a look at what I have to say about how I see the current dynamics of Brexit and the problems associated with it and the problems of trying to bring this to satisfactory conclusion.”
“It certainly, from my point of view, was not a meeting to conspire with anybody.”
A European Commission spokesman said: “MEPs of all parties – including Ukip – organise meetings at the European Parliament’s office.
“Meetings organised by MEPs are not the Commission’s responsibility any more than meetings organised by British MPs in the British parliament are the responsibility of UK civil servants – and no-one represents the Commission at such meetings.”
Anna Soubry later hailed Mr Grieve a hero on Twitter for pushing for a meaningful vote on Brexit.
Iain Duncan Smith has told Theresa May to get tough on the EU
She tweeted: “Dominic Grieve should be hailed a hero for what he has achieved for democracy.
“Deal or no deal Parliament will have a meaningful vote and to be clear there will be no hard Brexit when the EU Withdrawal Bill is passed.”
Tory backbenchers also celebrated the successsful passage of the bill through the Commons.
North Cornwall MP Scott Mann said: “Can he now head to Brussels with renewed vigour to support many of my constituents who voted for Brexit and now want the Government to get on and deliver the result?”
Mr Davis said he hoped his “vigour does not need renewal”, adding: “We’ll build on the hard work at home and in Brussels to continue to work towards a withdrawal agreement and future framework in October.”
The Brexit Secretary later updated the Commons on the progress of the negotiations, telling MPs that three quarters of the legal text had now been agreed with Brussels.
The Welsh First Minister has called for Mrs May to overcome her “fear of a few dozen backbenchers” and secure a ‘soft’ Brexit for the good of the country.
Carwyn Jones said that while the UK had voted to leave the EU, he did not believe there was majority support for a hard Brexit.
He also accused the Government of presiding over a course of action “likely to end with an outcome where the UK neither has its cake, nor gets the chance to eat it” with “he very real possibility of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed Remainer concessions on Brexit will increase the chances of a ‘no deal’
Mr Jones said he would be prepared to back a referendum on the final deal – but only if it was rejected by Parliament and a subsequent General Election was “inconclusive”.
Speaking at the UK In A Changing Europe think tank event in London, the Welsh First Minister added it was time to “go back to the drawing board, rub out the red lines and argue for a dynamic and positive relationship with the Single Market”.
He said: “When I hear some of the hardline Brexiteers say, ‘well you know there will be a short term price to pay but we will be OK in the long run’ – people were not told that two years ago.
“I’m not prepared to accept a decline in our economy, a decline in living standards, in incomes, decline in investment, purely to satisfy ideological desires of some.”
Mr Jones said the Brexit deal should “retain alignment with the Single Marke as a regulatory space; and a new, durable, Customs Union with the EU.”
He continued: “My message to the Prime Minister is clear.
“Use the opportunity presented by the White Paper to change direction; to challenge M Barnier and the EU27 to make good on their promises that it is our red lines that prevent a very different future partnership; and to be led by the national interest, not by fear of a few dozen backbenchers.”
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Tory rebels have also been praising the Prime Minister over her “personal assurance” that Parliament will have a final vote on Brexit if the Government fails to reach a deal with the European Union by December 2018.
Nicky Morgan believes Mr Grieve’s amendment will be given the appropriate consideration
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Conservative MP Nicky Morgan argued her new promise to give Parliament a final say on Brexit was a clear assurance Mr Grieve’s amendment to the Bill will finally be given the appropriate consideration.
Ms Morgan said: “This is something that is obviously going to be further discussed between the Government and Dominic Grieve and those of us who feel strongly about this amendment.
“Part of the reason we had the meeting with the Prime Minister and the chief whip where the Prime Minister gave us her personal assurance, is because we have had undertakings given at the dispatch box before that haven’t then been fulfilled.”
Staunch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg revealed Remainer concessions on Brexit will only make the chances of a no-deal with the EU more likely.
Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight, he pointed out that Remainers will “gum up the process of negotiation” with the EU and result in the UK leaving the bloc without a deal at all.
Asked by host if he was worried about any concessions given to the Remainers, the MP for North East Somerset responded: “The issue with these concessions is that they actually make no-deal more likely because they would so gum up the process of negotiation.
“Can you imagine that the Government goes off to Brussels and says ‘we can only discuss these three things because these are the only ones that have been covered by a House of Commons resolution’.
“The EU says no, it goes back to the Commons, a week passes then another resolution is passed it means nothing will happen.”
Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith wants the Prime Minister to walk away from the negotiating table if she is unable to secure a good Brexit deal by the time of the EU Summit next month.
The Tory MP has urged her to ignore Remainers, claiming the EU will only come to the table if there is a threat of a no deal and that Mrs May is right to say that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
He conceded that the PM had been to osoft on the EU, but Brussels has been behaving like an “opponent who wishes to impose their will and force the UK to repent what they believe is the folly of Brexit”.
Writing for The Sun, Mr Duncan Smith said: “The British people voted for freedom, and Parliament must remember that nothing should stop the Government delivering on that vote.
“Too often it seems as though it is the UK which negotiates as a supplicant — despite the reality that, as the EU’s largest trade partner and the fifth largest economy in the world, with the world’s fourth most potent defence forces, the UK is deserving of much more respect from the EU.”
Additional reporting by Paul Withers.