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Downing Street hints at 'meaningful vote' climbdown as Tory Brexit rebel predicts government defeat

3 min read

Theresa May could back down over calls for parliament to be given a "meaningful vote" on the final Brexit deal after a leading rebel warned the Government was heading for an embarrassing Commons defeat.

Downing Street said it was "having conversations" with Tory backbenchers preparing to support an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill in a crunch vote on Wednesday night.

It has been tabled by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who has insisted that MPs must be given a vote on any withdrawal agreement struck between the Government and the EU.

Speaking on Radio Four's 'World At One' programme, the Conservative MP said he had enough support to inflict defeat on the Prime Minister if she did not take his idea on board.

"I don’t see any possibility of my backing down on this at all," he said. "I will vote for my amendment, I don’t know whether I will be successful or not but obviously  I feel like I must push it forward."

He added: "I think there are quite a few who may support me - I think enough, if this comes to a vote, to defeat the Government. But I don’t want to defeat the government, it’s not my desire to do this.

"I’d much prefer the Government listen to what we’ve been saying, accept the amendment and, at a later stage, the government can always correct it, if it wants to. "

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "The Government's position on this bill is that we are listening to MPs, we're having conversations with them and where there are instances where we think legislation can be improved we're prepared to take that on board.

"What the MPs are asking for is clarity, but we're looking at the amendment and will respond to it in due course."

The Government has already said it will accept one amendment to the bill limiting so-called "Henry VIII powers" which allow ministers to change laws coming back to Westminster from Brussels without the approval of MPs.

Meanwhile, a leading pro-EU Conservative MP has hit out at those of her party colleagues who have criticised Tories seeking to amend the Government's flagship Brexit legislation.

Anna Soubry also called on the Government to build a "consensus" between those who backed Leave and Remain in the EU referendum.

Speaking in a Commons debate on the bill, she said: "For people to say that in tabling an amendment to thwart or stop Brexit is frankly gravely offensive and that level of insult, because it is an insult, has got to stop.

"People have got to accept that there is a genuine desire from people on these benches and over there on those benches to come together, heal the divide and get the best deal for our country.

"We have got ourselves into a ludicrous situation where a very small number in this place, in this government and in the country at large, suddenly seem to be running the show and that's not right because they don't reflect Leave voters. Overwhelmingly, they are sensible pragmatic people who unite behind the majority of people who voted Remain who frankly want us to get together, move on and get the best deal, and get on with Brexit.

"What I would urge all please now reach out to the Remainers, often called former Remainers, don't tar us with the same paint brush you yourself may have used for many, many years, and try and build a consensus. That means the Government has to give a little bit more than it is currently giving."

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