Theresa May forced to give MPs free vote on Malthouse Brexit bid after Cabinet backlash

Posted On: 
13th March 2019

Theresa May has been forced to hand Conservative MPs a free vote on a key amendment to her Brexit motion later this evening following pressure from her Cabinet colleagues.

Theresa May will address MPs later today ahead of a vote this evening
Credit: 
PA Images

The bid, based around the so-called Malthouse Compromise plan, comes ahead of tonight’s vote on whether to indicate support for blocking a no-deal Brexit, which MPs will also not be whipped on.

It follows reports that Tory MPs would be asked to vote down the amendment, if it is selected by Speaker John Bercow, although this was later denied by Downing Street.

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The Daily Telegraph reported that Chris Grayling and Gavin Williamson were among the frontbenchers to urge May not to whip MPs during this morning's weekly Cabinet meeting.

The vote comes just a day after the PM’s meaningful vote on her deal was defeated for the second time and amid an impasse as to how ministers proceed ahead of the planned 29 March exit day.

The Malthouse plan, if backed by MPs, would see Article 50 extended until 22 May, just before the European Parliament elections, while the UK tries to strike a “standstill” agreement with the EU and its member states.

The plan would in theory last up to the end of 2021, during which Britain would pay into EU budgets and observe its legal obligations as if part of the bloc, while a new relationship is hammered out.

It has support from Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker and DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds, alongside those in favour of a softer exit, such as Tory MPs Nicky Morgan and Simon Hart.

The Telegraph also reported that at least one Cabinet minister is expected to be among those to give the amendment their support.

"The Remainers have had it all their own way, they've breached collective responsibility without any sanction," one told the paper.

"We've been loyal and look where it's got us."