Tory eurosceptics set to rebel in key Brexit vote over fears government ruling out no-deal
Tory eurosceptics are set to rebel in a key Commons vote over their fears the Government is preparing to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Figures from the hardline European Research Group locked horns with Conservative whips as MPs prepare to debate Theresa May's latest update on the Brexit negotiations.
The Government motion for Thursday's debate and vote endorses “the approach to leaving the EU” backed by the Commons on 29 January.
That night, MPs said the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ plan should be replaced by "alternative arrangements" - but they also said a no-deal Brexit should be ruled out.
ERG figures yesterday demanded the motion be pulled and a fresh one written, insisting the option of quitting without an agreement must remain on the table to strength the Prime Minister's hand in negotiations.
They said if it is not, they will vote against the Government, paving the way for a potentially humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister.
An ERG source told the Brexit Central website that ruling out no-deal would “completely destroy our leverage in the critical negotiations with the EU”.
They added: “If they supported this motion on Thursday, the Government would effectively be voting against their own expressed policy, as repeated in the House, including by the Prime Minister, on numerous occasions.
“This is utterly chaotic, bordering on farce.
“We told the Government very clearly last night that we will not support this motion and in fact we urged them, indeed pleaded with them at senior level, to withdraw it yesterday – but they took absolutely no notice. Frankly, we despair.”
The no-deal motion at the end of January, tabled by Tory former minister Caroline Spelman, said it “rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship”.
The other motion that passed was tabled by Tory backbencher Sir Graham Brady and called for the hated Irish backstop part of the Brexit deal "to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border”.
Neither amendment has legal weight but they tell the Government what MPs want and indicate what kind of deal would eventually pass the House.