May survives Tory rebellion on ‘meaningful’ Brexit vote - but at what cost?
Confusion reigns after last-minute concession sees Government avoid defeat
Theresa May has faced down a Tory rebellion on the EU Withdrawal Bill, the Government’s primary piece of Brexit legislation, but faces an angry backlash from Brexiteers who fear she has sold them out.
The prime minister won the key vote on giving Parliament a “meaningful vote” on Brexit - although only by offering Tory rebels a “significant concession”, reports The Guardian.
How did the day unfold?
MPs voted by 324 votes to 298 - a majority of 26 - to reject the Lords amendment, which would have enabled Parliament to take charge of the negotiating strategy if MPs voted against the Brexit deal in the autumn.
It followed a frantic 24 hours in which government whips sought to bully, bribe and corral potential rebels.
Just hours before the crunch vote, the prime minister suffered her first ministerial resignation over Brexit when Phillip Lee quit as justice minister so that he could speak out freely against the Government’s strategy.
Lee accused the Government of trying to “limit” Parliament’s role and called for another referendum to be held when the final direction of Brexit becomes clear.
Earlier in the day, The Daily Telegraph claimed that four other ministers were prepared to quit over May’s handling of Brexit negotiations. With a number of Tory MPs signalling they would vote for the amendment, the Government was forced into a last-minute compromise to avoid defeat.
What is the significance of the vote?
The vote means the Government effectively agreed to the demands set out by leading rebel Dominic Grieve, which states that in the event Parliament rejects the final deal, the ministers would then have to seek MPs’ approval for its new negotiating position within seven days.
The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn described this as a “big climbdown” by the Government; ceding a vote to MPs on how it proceeds and meaning the Commons will be able to direct Brexit negotiations if no deal is reached by the end of November this year.
Tweeting after the vote, Lee said Theresa May has “given her word” that the Government will now give parliament a “voice” in the Brexit process.
But as the dust settled, both sides were left scratching their heads as to what had actually been promised.
The Economist’s John Peet said his conclusion from today was that “as so often before, is that May is good at surviving at home - by putting off hard choices and making concessions. Not clear this works so well in Brussels, where she is being driven to a soft Brexit of transition, customs union and much of single market.”
Meanwhile, Business Insider’s Adam Payne tweeted that the “one big outcome from today’s circus = no deal Brexit just about dead. Government compromise gives MPs power to veto it. The threat of UK walking out of talks no longer serious (not that Brussels thought it was anyway). Rees Mogg & co truly on the back foot — how do they respond?”
But according to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, government sources are not reading quite as much into the concession as Tory pro-Europeans.
A senior Brexiteer talking to Alex Wickham, who works for the pro-Brexit Guido Fawkes website, said: “If Theresa and Julian have sold us out here they are in real trouble. She reassured us all at the 1922. There is no way she can recover if she has now f***ed us over.”
“The full scale of the Government’s concessions are expected to emerge in the coming days” says The Daily Telegraph, “with a new amendment expected when the Bill returns to the House of Lords in the coming weeks”.