Sunday, 17 June, 2018

Government avoids defeat on Brexit bill

Theresa May and Nigel Farage GMB•GETTYBrexit news Nigel Farage claimed Brexit voters will have to wait until 2022 to see changes
Melinda Barton | 13 June, 2018, 02:47

A junior minister in the government of British Prime Minister Theresa May resigned on Tuesday ahead of a crucial vote that could decide the future of Brexit-and perhaps the Prime Minister herself.

In a day of drama, May's position seemed suddenly weaker when junior justice minister Phillip Lee, who has always been critical of the government's Brexit strategy, resigned and said he would vote against the government.

The victory was the first major win in two days of debates on the government's European Union withdrawal bill, which will sever ties with the European Union, after the upper house of parliament, the House of Lords, introduced 15 changes.

Potential rebels fell into line after Solicitor General Robert Buckland said ministers were ready to "engage positively" with their concerns before the Bill returns to the Upper House next Monday.

"The main reason for my taking this decision now is the Brexit process and the government's wish to limit parliament's role in contributing to the final outcome in a vote that takes place today", he said in a statement released on his website.

The Government defeated the amendment by 324 votes to 298 after a late concession to a group of Tories led Dominic Grieve.

Despite many Conservative MPs who backed Remain in the referendum, just two rebelled against the government on a meaningful vote.

In the last few days Remainers have been playing down the chances of a government defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill, as they keep their powder dry for the forthcoming Trade and Customs Bills. But there is going to be no binary choice of the deal on the table or no deal, with Parliament bypassed.

Meanwhile, Tory Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin told the government he would not accept ministers agreeing to Mr Grieve's demand for the House of Commons to assume control of Brexit negotiations in the event of no deal.

The government fears a weakened negotiating position.

"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 now being delivered", Mr Lee said on Twitter.

The amendment in question hinges on whether lawmakers will get a "meaningful" vote on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Anna Soubry, a pro-EU Conservative MP, said she knew of one legislator who would not vote with their conscience because of "threats to their personal safety" and that of staff and family. They told the anti-hard-Brexit rebels that they would propose their own amendment that, in effect, gave them what they wanted.

'The objective of the EU Withdrawal Bill is simple - it is putting EU legislation into law to ensure a smooth and orderly transition as we leave, ' she is expected to tell them.