Leading Tory rebel throws Theresa May a lifeline to avoid defeat on flagship Brexit bill

Posted On: 
12th June 2018

A leading Tory rebel has thrown Theresa May a lifeline which could see her avoid a humiliating defeat on the Government's flagship Brexit bill.

Theresa May last night appealed to rebel Tories to back her
Credit: 
PA Images

Dominic Grieve tabled a last-minute amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill on the so-called "meaningful vote" MPs will get on the final deal with Prime Minister strikes with Brussels.

The Government had been facing defeat in a crunch vote this afternoon on a House of Lords amendment which would give Parliament complete control over the Brexit process if the Commons rejected the deal.

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Under the compromise plan, ministers will have seven days to set out their approach if MPs reject its deal with Brussels, and will then have until November 30 to try to strike a new deal and give MPs a say.

If there is still no deal by February 15 next year, the Government will have to follow a strategy set out by the Commons.

PoliticsHome understands that former Attorney General Mr Grieve had dinner with government chief whip Julian Smith last night to discuss his plan.

However, it is unclear whether the Government will accept his proposal, which is likely to infuriate Brexiteers.

Mr Grieve told Newsnight last night: "I hope very much the Government will look at that, because I think it provides a solution which would satisfy everybody.

He added: "If it’s not accepted, I will have to consider very carefully tomorrow — I might well vote against the government. I’ve made that quite clear."

The potential breakthrough came after the Government agreed a deal with Tory rebels to avoid a defeat on a vote tomorrow on Britain's future customs arrangements with the EU.

Last night Mrs May urged her MPs to back her on the EU Withdrawal Bill amendments or “undermine” her negotiations with Brussels.

At a meeting with the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers last night, the Prime Minister said: "We must think about the message Parliament will send to the European Union this week.

"I am trying to negotiate the best deal for Britain. I am confident I can get a deal that allows us to strike our own trade deals while having a border with the EU which is as frictionless as possible.

"But if the Lords amendments are allowed to stand, that negotiating position will be undermined."

She added: "The message we send to the country through our votes this week is important.

"We must be clear that we are united as a party in our determination to deliver on the decision made by the British people."

Brexit Secretary David Davis followed that up with a letter to Tory MPs last night urging them to unite behind Mrs May.

Meanwhile some 70 Labour MPs are said to be preparing to back the call for the UK to join the EEA. It is the only one of the 15 Lords amendments the Labour leadership is fighting against.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is meanwhile braced for a major rebellion from his MPs over whether the UK should join the European Economic Area after Brexit.

The showdown on the EU Withdrawal Bill will continue into Wednesday before the bill goes back to the Lords.