May fights off Brexit rebels …but more tricky votes lie ahead

Posted on Jun 13 2018 - 7:33pm by admin

David Davis Brexit

GETTYDavid Davis speaking in a debate on Brexit legislation in the House of Commons

In what is a significant advance in her push to get Britain out of the EU, the Prime Minister defeated a demand for binding parliamentary approval on any final withdrawal deal she House of Lords amendment designed to force the change by 324 votes to 298.

Mrs May faced a marathon 12 Commons votes over her Brexit plans yesterday, with the Government comfortably avoiding defeat in all of them.

In the final one, MPs voted by 321 to 40 to reject a string of Lords amendments over the post-Brexit transfer of former EU powers to the Scottish Government and other devolved assemblies.

But Mrs May was also warned that pro-Brussels Tories have enough Commons support to defeat the Government in further Brexit votes expected next month. And in a signal of deepening Tory tensions over Europe, Phillip Lee quit as justice minister hours before yesterday’s vote in protest at the Brexit plans.


Stern-faced MPs line up in the Commons to hear the result of the vote

To my knowledge, at least one honourable member on these benches will today and tomorrow not vote in accordance with their conscience because of threats to their personal safety, to members of their parliamentary staff and members of their family.

Tory MP Anna Soubry

On a nerve-jangling day for Tory whips, the Prime Minister only managed to persuade potential rebels to back down minutes before yesterday’s crunch vote.

She gave them a personal assurance that MPs and peers will be given a say in the final stages of the withdrawal negotiations.

Her offer was accepted by proBrussels Tory ringleader Dominic Grieve, who withdrew his proposal for a “meaningful vote” by Parliament on the deal.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland conceded to the rebels’ central demand that the Commons will get a vote if the Government walks away from talks without a deal, or if there is no deal by November 30.

Other leading rebels, including senior backbencher Sarah Wollaston, withdrew their threat to vote against the Government following the concessions.

Brexit protest PA

Tory ringleader Dominic Grieve withdrew his proposal for a ‘meaningful vote’ on the deal

Pro-Brussels Tory Stephen Hammond said: “We have spoken in a room with the Prime Minister this afternoon, 10 minutes before the first round of voting.

I absolutely trust what the Prime Minister says to us.”

Mrs May’s victory came as ministers sought to strip out amendments by Remain-backing peers to her EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

More crucial votes, including attempts to force the Government to keep close customs ties with Brussels after Brexit, are due at Westminster today.

Amid chaotic scenes in the Commons, ministers and rebels were seen in tense talks on the Government benches to try to thrash out compromises.

Chief Whip Julian Smith darted in and out of the chamber as he sought to persuade backbenchers to remain loyal.

Phillip Lee BrexitPA

Former justice minister Phillip Lee speaking during the debate for the EU (Withdrawal) Bill

He was later seen locked in conversation with Mr Grieve.

Former minister George Freeman was also collared by the Chief Whip in the chamber after he tweeted that he was “torn” on the issue.

Ahead of the crucial votes on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned MPs that defeat would undermine the UK’s negotiating stance in Brussels.

Following the votes, opposition MPs complained about the length of parliamentary time for the debate. Labour backbencher Vernon Coaker said: “Numerous backbenchers have not been able to contribute to what everyone has been talking about as one of the most momentous days in the history of this Parliament.”

After the vote, Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “This vote was about ensuring Parliament was given a proper role in the Brexit negotiations and that we avoid a no-deal situation.

“However, facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat, Theresa May has been forced to enter negotiations with her backbenchers and offer a so-called concession.

We will hold ministers to account to ensure it lives up to the promises they have made to Parliament.”

Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “At the 59th minute of the 11th hour, as has become a tradition in Brexit negotiations, the Tories have been forced to cobble together a compromise.

“Time will tell as to whether this is just another attempt to buy off the rebels or a real attempt at consensus.

“But if we face the prospect of a ‘meaningless process’ rather than a ‘meaningful vote’, Parliament will be enraged.”

Before the debate, Tory MP Anna Soubry claimed she and other former Remain campaigners had been targeted for abuse.

She said: “To my knowledge, at least one honourable member on these benches will today and tomorrow not vote in accordance with their conscience because of threats to their personal safety, to members of their parliamentary staff and members of their family.”

Speaker John Bercow insisted no MPs should be threatened and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom added: “Any threats of violence and intimidation are utterly unacceptable to the Government.”

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