Theresa May has narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat over the Brexit bill after offering Conservative rebels ‘significant concessions’ from the government on the ‘meaningful vote’ when it returns to the House of Lords next week.
May faced an uphill battle today, warning anti-Brexit Tory rebels not to defy her and back the Lords’ amendments to the bill, which would weaken her hand at the negotiating table.
Just ten minutes before MPs cast their votes on the key amendment – the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ – in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister hauled rebel Tory MPs into her office in a last ditch attempt to get them on side.
But it meant May making last-minute concessions that could give MPs a bigger say on the final withdrawal agreement and make a ‘no-deal’ exit much less likely. It seems to have worked – the PM managed to avoid a humiliating defeat on giving Parliament a decisive say over what happens next if it rejects a final Brexit deal.
MPs voted by 324 votes to 298 – a majority of 26 – to reject the amendment passed in the Lords enabling parliament to take charge of the negotiating strategy if MPs voted against the Brexit deal in the autumn. The amendment would have given MPs the power to tell the Prime Minister to go back and renegotiate the Brexit deal.
May set the tone for a tense two days as she warned Tory Remainers that if they defied her and backed the Lords’ amendments it would weaken Britain’s hand at the negotiating table. Speaking on Monday ahead of the key votes, the prime minister said: ‘We must think about the message Parliament will send to the European Union this week.
‘I am trying to negotiate the best deal for Britain. I am confident I can get a deal that allows us to strike our own trade deals while having a border with the EU which is as frictionless as possible. ‘But if the Lords amendments are allowed to stand, that negotiating position will be undermined.’
Writing in The Guardian, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘Instead of negotiating for Britain, the prime minister is lurching from crisis to crisis, increasing the risk that the talks break down, and we crash out without an agreement. We cannot go on like this.’ Sir Keir said a Government compromise on a meaningful vote for Parliament at the end of the Brexit process would instead turn it into a ‘meaningless vote’ if backed by MPs. Justice Minister Phillip Lee resigns over Brexit Play Video Loaded: 0% 0:00Progress: 0% PlayMute Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 1:01 Fullscreen
Earlier today the Prime Minister suffered a major blow when justice minister Dr Phillip Lee quit over Brexit. The pro-remain MP for Bracknell said on Twitter: ‘I am incredibly sad to have had to announce my resignation as a minister in Her Majesty’s Government so that I can better speak up for my constituents and country over how Brexit is currently being delivered.’
He added: ‘If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country’s current exit from the EU looks set to be delivered.
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