Government avoids defeat on Brexit bill


In a presentation published on its website on Monday, the European Commission set out a series of concerns it has about the U.K.'s proposal, which Britain says should replace the EU's plan that keeps only Northern Ireland in the European customs union and parts of the single market.

But they face a revolt by pro-EU Tory MPs determined to retain as numerous changes as possible in the legislation.

During an impassioned speech she pleaded for the government not to go "over the cliff" into a hard Brexit and warned MPs not to ignore the 48% of the United Kingdom who voted to remain.

Despite depending on the votes of the 10 DUP MPs for her precarious Commons majority, there were signs of cautious optimism among ministers that they would get the numbers to see off the revolt.

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Tory Remainers and Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, debating the Brexit bill for a second day in the Commons, said the inclusion of the Northern Ireland amendment meant the only option was to now "reproduce the customs union and the single market".

"The Government's amendment today provides for a meaningful vote".

The disagreement centres on whether the government agreed to consider a specific clause of the rebel proposal that would hand parliament control of the Brexit process if ministers are unable to strike an exit deal by February 15, 2019.

The government's eleventh hour amendment, lifted in large parts from Tory Remainer Dominic Grieve's own proposal and to be presented to the Lords on Monday, is expected to give MPs the right to veto the government's strategy if it fails to secure a political agreement with the European Union by 30 November. The "meaningful vote" amendment, which would assert Parliament's authority over the negotiations and effectively hand control to MPs, still represents an opportunity to turn the whole process on its head.

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The government will face an nearly certain defeat if it now reneges on a promise to give MPs more of a say over the final Brexit deal.

She also repeated the defiant words spoken by David Davis from his days as a backbencher when he regularly rebelled against the government.

"We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the government's hands in the negotiations". "Any compromise [amendment] would have to be tabled by Govt in Lords".

But after the prime minister personally assured a group of around 15 rebels that Mr Grieve's amendment would be partially adopted into the Bill before it went back to the Lords the rebels backed down. The prime minister still has time to come up with a form of words acceptable to both sides, but the expectations of the anti-Brexit rebels have been raised significantly.

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Theresa May's Janus-faced promise on a "meaningful vote" may have averted a defeat.