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Theresa May accused of 'contempt' after MPs given 12 hours to debate key Brexit bill

3 min read

Theresa May has been accused of treating Parliament with "contempt" after it emerged MPs will be given just 12 hours to debate a raft of changes to the Government's flagship Brexit bill.

The EU Withdrawal Bill - which was amended 15 times in the House of Lords - will return to the Commons next Tuesday.

The changes included calls for the UK to effectively stay in the single market by joining the European Economic Area and moves to agree a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

It had been anticiapted that the Commons would be given up to three days to consider the amendents, the bulk of which the Conservatives will try to overturn.

But Tory chief whip Julian Smith told his MPs that the Government had only set aside12 hours for the debate and votes to take place - sparking a furious reaction from Labour.

Conservative backbenchers have also been warned not to leave the Parliamentary estate in case they are needed at short notice to vote.

Shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman said: "This is a shameful decision by the Government. Ministers have spent months delaying Brexit votes in Parliament because they fear defeat. Now they want to railroad through crucial legislation and limit the chance for proper debate and scrutiny. 

"Theresa May should stop treating Parliament with such contempt and rethink these proposals as a matter of urgency."

Labour MP David Lammy, of the pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, said: "This shows total contempt of Parliament to try and railroad 15 amendments through Parliament in just a single session. 

"This piece of legislation will have huge consequences for the future of our country for generations to come. 

"There is no shortage of parliamentary time - the government has hardly put any substantive legislation before Parliament since the General Election because their mandate is shot to pieces and the Cabinet is divided over Brexit."

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP and member of the People's Vote campaign, said: "It is absolutely outrageous for the Government to allocate just one day to a debate that promises to be crucial for the future of our country. But it is unfortunately in keeping with their whole approach to Brexit: shambolic, lacking transparency or accountability and contemptuous of basic Parliamentary scrutiny.

"This is a shameful attempt by the Government to avoid difficult questions about the chaotic mess they’ve made of the Brexit negotiations. But people will not be fooled. I hope MPs will vote in favour of the vital amendments to this Bill, in particular those that seek to keep the UK in the customs union and in Europe’s economic area."

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "We've been clear all along that there will be time for debate on this topic. It has already been discussed at length in the House of Commons and House of Lords."

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