Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Prime Minister hit by dramatic resignation as MPs debate Brexit

Melinda Barton | 13 June, 2018, 08:22

But after meeting Mrs May he told this paper: "I've been to see the prime minister and received important undertakings and made a decision to vote to give the prime minister the authority and freedom to negotiate the best deal she can".

But the cabinet's anxiety about the nail-biting parliamentary arithmetic increased significantly after the resignation of Bracknell MP Phillip Lee, who left his post on Tuesday morning to free his hand to vote against the government.

Hours before the debate began, a justice minister resigned in protest at what he called its "wish to limit" the role of parliament in shaping Brexit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a showdown in parliament with lawmakers later on Tuesday who want a "meaningful vote" on an eventual Brexit deal.

She has already agreed to give MPs a vote on the final Brexit deal, but says it will be a yes or no decision - meaning that rejecting it could see Britain crash out of the EU.

Conservative former minister Anna Soubry said the abuse of MPs who speak out against the government's Brexit policy "simply has to stop".

The Bracknell MP, who called for a second referendum on whatever deal Mrs May secures from the European Union, later told the Commons there was growing evidence that the Government's Brexit policy is "detrimental to the people we were elected to serve". He said he would vote against the prime minister.

"We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the government's hands in the negotiations".

The battle now moves to the House of Lords, where the government will formally reveal how much it has conceded in the wording of a new amendment expected on Monday or Tuesday.

In the event, Dr Lee abstained on the crucial vote, saying he was "delighted" the Government had agreed to introduce an amendment giving Parliament "the voice I always wanted it to have in the Brexit process".

As the Brexit debate reached its fraught climax, she was holed up in the same House of Commons office, behind the Speaker's chair, where she spent more than an hour last Thursday trying to convince David Davis not to resign.

A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "On the meaningful vote we have agreed to look for a compromise when this goes back to the Lords".

Labour's Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer believes that a Norway-style deal with the EU would not prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland and that becoming a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) - effectively keeping Britain in the EU single market - would be "totally incompatible" with the need to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, the Independent wrote.

But Tuesday's victory came at a cost - a government promise to strengthen Parliament's voice, potentially at the expense of its own power to set the terms of any final divorce deal with the EU. May's preferred approach is temporarily keeping the U.K.in some form of temporary customs union with the E.U., but this is unacceptable to hardline Brexiteers in her party.

Brexit protesters outside Parliament House.