Downing Street 'extremely concerned' over hopes to delay Brexit with minority power plan

Posted On: 
20th January 2019

A Brexit plot by a top Tory MP which could see a minority of MPs take control of parliament has raised concerns in Downing Street.

MPs could seize control of parliamentary business with a minority
Credit: 
PA Images

Dominic Grieve is preparing to table a Commons amendment that would allow just 300 MPs to trigger a vote on suspending the Article 50 process - less than half the members in the House.

Meanwhile, a separate plan has been drafted that would effectively block an "accidental" no-deal Brexit.

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But Downing Street said attempts to seize power from the Government were “extremely concerning”.

Theresa May is expected to table her Brexit plan B tomorrow after the deal she clinched with Brussels was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs last week.

Tory MP Mr Grieve is preparing to table an amendment to her motion that, if passed, would allow a minority of MPs to take control of Commons business for a day.

It would mean 300 MPs from five separate parties - including 10 Tory MPs - would be able to table a vote on delaying Article 50, among other things. 

Any votes tabled would have no legislative power, but would pile pressure on the Government to bow to the demands of MPs.

The amendment is said to have won support from almost a dozen MPs and could see the desires of a majority of MPs defeated by a minority in a major break with parliamentary procedure.

Meanwhile, a separate bill to be tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles would give the Prime Minister until 26 February to get Commons approval for a deal, or trigger a vote to extend Article 50.

The move is expected to have the backing of Labour's frontbench, according to the Observer.

Ms Cooper said: “This whole process is in a mess and the government is in danger of drifting into no deal by accident - even though that would immediately hit policing and security, impose big costs on manufacturing, industry and food.”

But a Downing Street spokesman told PoliticsHome: “The British public voted to leave the European Union and it is vital that elected politicians deliver upon that verdict.

“Any attempt to remove the government's power to meet the legal conditions of an orderly exit at this moment of historic significance is extremely concerning.”

On the Grieve plan, a minister told the Sunday Telegraph: "If you've got a group of Conservative MPs actively working with the Opposition to actively undermine our key policy and upend our parliamentary system then you're in different territory to just voting against the Government...

"I can't see how you can continue as a Conservative MP."

'BACKSTOP SOLUTION'

Elsewhere, the Sunday Times reports that Mrs May will propose a bilateral treaty with Ireland that would allow her to remove the controversial ‘backstop’ plan from her deal.

The backstop, which has drawn severe criticism, would ensure the border with Northern Ireland stays open by keeping the UK in a customs union with the bloc.

The paper adds that the Prime Minister could offer her warring backbenchers a promise to stand down by May this year in a bid to secure their support for her plan.

But up to 20 ministers are said to be on the brink of quitting their jobs unless she agrees to back a permanent customs union with the EU in order to win support from Labour MPs.

Business Minister Richard Harrington told the Sunday Times: “We will do anything we can to stop this nonsense of a hard Brexit.

“We don’t want to be put in a position where we have to resign from the Government for that to be the case.

“That might mean supporting the Nick Boles plan. I’m not prepared to have it on my conscience to sell business down the river.”