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Confusion over deal offered to Tory rebels by Theresa May to prevent Commons defeat

3 min read

Theresa May has been plunged into a fresh crisis after the Brexit department denied that she had vowed to give Parliament a say on what happens if she fails to strike a withdrawal agreement with Brussels.

The Prime Minister performed a major a climbdown in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a humiliating Commons defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

She held meetings with more than a dozen Tory backbenchers who were prepared to defeat the Government by backing a House of Lords amendment on a so-called 'meaningful vote' which would have effectively put Parliament in charge of the Brexit process if MPs reject the withdrawal agreement.

According to the rebels, she told them that ministers were prepared to accept two key demands contained in a compromise amendment tabled by former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve, and would bring them forward by the time the bill returns to the House of Lords next week.

She also pledged, the rebels said, to consider the third section of the amendment, which would prevent a no deal Brexit by putting Parliament in charge if no agreements is reached with the EU by 15 February next year.

The two demands included a commitment that the House of Commons will have a veto over the course of action the Government takes if it has not reached a Brexit deal with Brussels by the end of November.

Folliwing their discussions with Mrs May, the rebels agreed not to oppose the Government, who won the crucial vote 324-298.

But in apparent defiance of the deal the rebels believed they had struck with Mrs May, a spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the EU said: "On the meaningful vote we have agreed to look for a compromise when this goes back to the Lords. 

"The Brexit Secretary has set out three tests that any new amendment has to meet – not undermining the negotiations, not changing the constitutional role of Parliament and Government in negotiating international treaties, and respecting the referendum result.

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

One Tory rebel told PoliticsHome: "The position of the Prime Minister was very straightforward. It was indicated to us that the first two parts of the Grieve amendment presented very few problems and could be incorporated into a government amendment. The third part was more difficult, but from the conversation there was a way forward.

"DexEU can say whatever they want to say, I'm not going to get involved in their internal issues. The blunt reality is that the Government's difficult position means they say one thing to one group and one thing to another.

"The whole purpose of this was to proceed by agreement. If the outcome of our talks with the Prime Minister doesn't get delivered, the Grieve amendment will come back, and it's pretty clear where the numbers are."

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: "Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat, Theresa May has been forced to enter negotiations with her backbenchers and offer a so-called concession.

"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."

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