Jeremy Corbyn among opposition party leaders demanding ‘meaningful’ vote on Brexit deal
Westminster opposition party leaders have written a joint letter urging Theresa May to guarantee that MPs will be given a “meaningful vote” on the terms of Brexit.
Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP's Westminster chief Ian Blackford, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts and Tory veteran Ken Clarke all signed the document.
It followed last night’s announcement by Downing Street’s that a draft agreement had been struck between the UK and EU sides, with Cabinet expected to sign up to the deal later today.
Parliament is to be given a vote, most likely before the end of this year, on whether it backs the deal.
However ministers last month said attempts to change the wording of the motion will not affect the agreement or the timing of Britain’s departure next March.
In their letter, the opposition leaders said: “Recent interventions from government ministers have suggested that you and your government may seek to limit or constrain the process on the final vote, in an attempt to muzzle parliament.”
“While we recognize parliament will have to approve or disapprove any agreement, it would be reckless to present this vote as take-it-or-leave-it without parliament being able to suggest an alternative.”
They add that MPs should “as a minimum” be allowed to table multiple amendments, insisting it would be reckless to pose a “take-it-or-leave-it” on Mrs May’s agreement or a no-deal outcome.
And the leaders argue that House procedures, which have so far limited debates on some parts of the Brexit process to 90 minutes, are “not appropriate” going forward.
“We as party leaders have championed parliamentary scrutiny and engagement throughout this process, and throughout the debate we have had repeated assurances from across the dispatch box that MPs would be able to express their support for alternative options,” they add.
“Now it seems the Government has abandoned its willingness to let Parliament take back control and seems determined to limit the role of this sovereign parliament.
“We believe Parliament must be allowed to express its view and hold the executive to account. This would not be possible if Parliament was unable to table, debate and consider amendments before any decision on the substantive motion.”
Following the announcement Mr Corbyn said the deal struck would be “unlikely” to meet Labour’s tests in order for the party to vote for it.
Mr Blackford said: “Parliament must have the right to express its view on the terms of the UK's departure from the EU - and that means MPs must be able to consider, debate and vote on amendments prior to any substantive vote on the deal.
“This is usual procedure, there can be no shady tactics allowed by the UK Government.”
Dr Cable said: “Any Brexit deal will leave the UK weakened and the public poorer.
“And before the ink is dry, the Conservative Party will tear into what little Theresa May has been able to agree.
“The Prime Minister now faces a defeat in Parliament, as a majority will be hard or impossible to secure for what she has come up with.”