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Theresa May buys off Tory rebels with huge climbdown on Brexit meaningful vote

4 min read

Theresa May has avoided a fresh leadership crisis after heading off a Tory rebellion with huge last-minute concessions on the Government's Brexit strategy.

Following an afternoon of high drama, solicitor general Robert Buckland promised to have "structured discussions" with the rebels over their bid to give Parliament a greater say if MPs reject the final Brexit deal.

MPs then voted by 324 to 298 to overturn a key House of Lords amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill on the 'meaningful vote' MPs will have at the end of the process.

Earlier, justice minister Phillip Lee dramatically quit his post in order to join the rebellion, however pro-EU backbenchers Sarah Wollaston and Antoinette Sandbach later confirmed they would back the Government following a series of concessions.

It came as ministers reportedly opened the door to considering elements of a compromise amendment put forward by former attorney-general Dominic Grieve.

A source at Number 10 said: “We have given a commitment to open discussions on the Grieve amendment. We have not said we will accept particular parts of it yet.”

In the end Mr Grieve himself backed the Government, saying he was “quite satisfied” that MPs would get a “meaningful vote on both deal and no deal”.

“I’m absolutely satisfied by that, I have no doubt about it after today,” he told Sky News.

Elsewhere MPs overturned Lords’ attempts to change the rules around scrutiny of secondary legislation and to abandon the set exit date.

Ahead of the key votes, Brexit Secretary David Davis said undermining the Government would "guarantee a bad outcome".

"The purpose of this bill is to maintain a functioning and effective statute book upon leaving the European Union - a statute book that people and businesses can rely on," he said.

"The Government cannot demonstrate the flexibility necessary for a successful referendum if it's hands are tied throughout the process. That will guarantee a bad outcome."

Pro-Brexit Labour MP Frank Field said: "If we pass what the Lords want us to do, we - as Anuerin Bevan said, will be sending our negotiators back naked into the negotiating room. The EU will know that the Government is beaten and impose any terms whatsoever on them."

His colleague and fellow Leave backer John Mann said: "How will we explain to them that an unelected House of Lords, if their amendments are passed, can overturn both the Commons and the referendum?"


Following the meaningful vote verdict, Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, said: “This vote was about ensuring Parliament was given a proper role in the Brexit negotiations and that we avoid a no deal situation, which is becoming more likely with the divisions at the heart of this Government.

“However, 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.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said: ““At the 59th minute of the 11th hour, as has become a tradition in Brexit negotiations, the Tories have been forced to cobble together a compromise.

"Time will tell as to whether this is just another attempt to buy off the rebels or a real attempt at consensus.

“But if we face the prospect of a 'meaningless process' rather than a 'meaningful vote', Parliament will be enraged."

Pro-EU group Best for Britain’s CEO Eloise Todd said: "The one saving grace of today is that Parliament effectively killed the 'no deal' option by agreeing to a meaningful vote compromise drawn up by Dominic Grieve. 

“This feels like a step in the right direction but as ever the devil will be in the detail”.

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