May wins Brexit votes as Corbyn suffers rebellion

Elias Hubbard
June 14, 2018

A move that would have given MPs the power to stop Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal was rejected in the House of Commons.

The government has avoided a major defeat on its Brexit bill by 324 votes to 298 after a late concession.

There was little doubt the government would win on the customs union and single market, which some pro-EU lawmakers say is the only way for Britain to retain economically advantageous close ties with the bloc, with the opposition Labour Party also divided over future relations.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "As has become a tradition in Brexit negotiations, the Tories have been forced to cobble together a compromise".

He claimed the PM had delayed the transition from December 2020 until December 2021, something Mrs May dismissed as "quite wrong" as she said the backstop arrangement would come into force if it is not possible to put future customs arrangement in place by January 1 2021.

The government agreed to discuss elements of a rebel plan to create new checks and balances on the Brexit deal, and where possible incorporate them into the laws that will formally end Britain's European Union membership.

The government was braced for a tight battle after junior justice minister Phillip Lee, a personal friend of May's, resigned on Tuesday morning in order to back the veto amendment.

Having been debated by both the lower house of parliament, the Commons, and the unelected upper house, the Lords, the bill is in its final stages.

It emerged last night - after much horse-trading around Westminster - that the government would accept parts A and B of Grieve's amendments. A paper laying out the UK government position, due to be published this month, has been delayed because the Cabinet can not agree on a united stance. If confirmed, the move represents a dramatic climbdown from Mrs May's original plan to offer MPs a "take it or leave it" vote to accept the withdrawal agreement or leave the European Union without a deal.

"I promised Crewe & Nantwich that I would respect the referendum result".

But it was a vote in parliament on Tuesday that left her seemingly at the mercy of two groups in the Conservative Party - those who want to maintain the closest possible ties with the European Union, and others pressing for a clean break. The Lords' amendment, which MPs rejected, went further in requiring the withdrawal agreement to be placed on a statutory footing.

Also on Tuesday, the government successfully overturned an attempt to remove the date of Brexit from the face of the bill.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: "We will wait and see the details of this concession and will hold ministers to account to ensure it lives up to the promises they have made to Parliament". The Lords themselves would get chance to consider a motion, but that wouldn't mean a binding "yes" or "no" vote for them.

74 Labour MPs rebelled to vote against disagreeing with the Lords EEA amendment and 15 rebelled to vote with the Government in agreeing to reject the Lords EEA amendment.

The vote is being sold as a victory for Grieve and his band of Tory rebels.

May said the government would amend the bill to address legislators' concerns, but warned that "I can not countenance Parliament being able to overturn the will of the British people".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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