United Kingdom justice minister resigns ahead of key Brexit debate

Elias Hubbard
June 13, 2018

The debate, which lasted for almost three hours, was split down the usual non-partisan lines that have emerged as a result of Brexit, with the likes of Labour's Kate Hoey and John Mann saying they would back the Conservative government, while Tories including Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry spoke in favour of Grieve. That has potentially seismic consequences for the protracted and increasingly messy split from Brussels. If some of its leave-supporting lawmakers choose to vote against the amendment, the government could avoid defeat altogether.

The right-wing press is presenting the upcoming votes as a make-or-break moment, continuing its longstanding tactic of describing the Brexit process as the "will of the people" and any attempts to seek greater democratic oversight of the process as "undemocratic". It also increases the prospect of MPs forcing a referendum on the terms of the eventual deal or even of a snap election before the end of the year.

This came after a last-minute resignation by the justice minister Dr Phillip Lee, who said he could no longer look his children in the eye and vote to support the government.

A legally binding backstop is required by October if there's to be a Brexit deal.

A series of further votes will take place on Wednesday, with no defeats expected after ministers agreed compromise wording over post-Brexit plans for a "customs arrangement".

The motion to reject the Lords amendment, which would have given MPs control over the government's negotiation strategy and the final exit deal, therefore passed by 324 votes to 298 - a majority of 26 votes.

Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis leave from 10 Downing Street in London on 7 June 2018.

The upshot of the shift may well be as dramatic as the parliamentary procedure is incomprehensible.

The SNP doesn't have any Lords because of an ideological disagreement with the concept of an unelected upper house - but it does have plenty of MPs in the Commons. Pro-Brexit members of the government want to be able to play the "no deal" card, but the House of Commons, where pro-EU voices are stronger, would nearly certainly reject the idea. "How can Boris [Johnson, the foreign secretary] and the ERG [the European Research Group of Euroskeptic MPs] live with this?"

Davis warned lawmakers the government would never allow them to "reverse Brexit" and called on them to back its own amendment, which proposes a 28-day breathing space if parliament rejects a Brexit deal, during which the government would have to make a statement on its plans. They stood down after the government promised to engage in talks on a compromise.

The minister also showed a united front with the Prime Minister by denying reports he came close to resigning. But a government official said they had just agreed to open talks on the basis of the rebel amendment.

"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".

Details of the government's commitment will have to be formalised next week in a new amendment to the bill.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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