Theresa May backs down on Brexit 'Henry VIII powers' to head off Tory rebellion

Posted On: 
11th December 2017

Theresa May has been accused of an "embarrassing climbdown" after she ditched plans to give ministers sweeping powers to change laws without MPs' approval.

The Government's plans for Henry VIII powers had caused huge controversy.
PA Images

Downing Street announced that the Government would accept an amendment to its flagship EU Withdrawal Bill doing away with so-called 'Henry VIII powers' set out in the legislation.

They would have allowed ministers to amend laws returning to Westminster from Brussels without a parliamentary vote.

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A large number of Tory MPs had voiced their concerns about the proposal, and were planning to join forces with Labour to wipe out Mrs May's slender majority and defeat the Government.

Just 48 hours before the crunch vote, Number 10 said it was accepting the amendment in the name of Conservative backbencher Charles Walker calling for a special "sifting committee" to be set up to scrutinise any proposed changes to returning laws.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "We have said from the outset that we will look at the amendments and where we consider that improvements can be made to the legislation, we will respond to them."

But Eloise Todd, head of the pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, said: "This is an embarrassing climbdown from a shambles of a government. They have no majority and no clue.

"The whole sorry saga was a shoddy power grab exposing ministers’ total contempt for parliament and fear of a proper Brexit debate."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister told her Cabinet that voters were behind the Brexit deal she struck with the EU last week.

Mrs May reached an agreement that sufficient progress has been made on the size of the Brexit divorce bill, citizens' right and the Irish border so that negotiations can move on to trade talks.

Her spokesman said: "Cabinet ministers said in the wake of Friday's announcement they had received a positive response from people who had voted both Leave and Remain.

"The Prime Minister said she believed the view of the public, from her own constituency engagements over the weekend was 'we're on our way'."

Mrs May has also posted an open letter on her Facebook page to EU citizens living in the UK telling them that Britain would be "poorer" without the contribution they make to the country.

She said: "You can look forward, safe in the knowledge that there is now a detailed agreement on the table in which the UK and the EU have set out how we intend to preserve your rights — as well as the rights of UK nationals living in EU countries. For we have ensured that these negotiations put people first. That is what I promised to do and that is what I will continue to do at every stage of this process.

"I wish you and all your families a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year."