Monday, 18 June, 2018

British PM avoids Brexit defeat in knife-edge parliament vote

The Foreign Minister said it was too early to say if the Trump Kim meeting could be deemed a success “but at least it’s a serious start” Source 1 NEWS
Ellis Copeland | 13 June, 2018, 18:59

Peers defeated the government on 15 issues, introducing amendments on issues ranging from future United Kingdom membership of the customs union and European Economic Area (EEA) to ministers' use of "Henry VIII" powers to force through changes without parliamentary scrutiny and the questions of whether MPs should get a "meaningful vote" on the final Brexit deal. At this point, the main way in which a no-deal Brexit might happen is if the process simply runs out of time and the United Kingdom is unable to get Article 50 extended.

Tuesday's Commons debate marked the start of the government's attempts to undo most of the changes to its EU Withdrawal Bill that were put forward by the House of Lords.

But after the prime minister personally assured a group of around 15 rebels that Mr Grieve's amendment would be partially adopted into the Bill before it went back to the Lords the rebels backed down.

Dr Lee, who represents the Leave-voting Bracknell seat, said in a lengthy resignation statement: "Our Parliament should be able to direct our Government to change course in our interests".

Details of the government's commitment will have to be formalised next week in a new amendment to the bill.

"And the thought of no deal absolutely terrifies us. It is, however, irresponsible to proceed as we are".

The government has accepted one of the Lords amendments, allowing the United Kingdom to continue to co-operate with European Union agencies, which it says is already its policy.

The Government has won the first votes during today's Brexit showdown.

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Anna Soubry, a pro-EU Conservative MP, said she knew of one legislator who would not vote with their conscience because of "threats to their personal safety" and that of staff and family.

But while the well-worn arguments focusing on the nature of a meaningful vote were made, the real drama was taking place on the floor of the chamber where chief whip Julian Smith, solicitor general Robert Buckland and Brexit secretary David Davis as well as the Prime Minister's parliamentary private secretary (PPS) George Holingberry were in deep discussion with each other and Grieve, as they sought to avert an embarrassment for the government.

One of the leading Tory rebels has told the BBC "the government has bent not broken" but it leaves the "fight for another day".

"If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I can not, in all good conscience, support how our country's exit from the European Union looks set to be delivered".

At this stage it looks like it will be very tight - but the government might just make it over the line.

The concession seems to be a victory for the Remain camp and last night Tory Brexiteers were concerned the climbdown could damage the prime minister's ability to walk away from the negotiations if the European Union offer was not good enough. "Labour will only vote for a final Brexit deal if it delivers a strong relationship with the single market based on full tariff-free access and ensures no loss of rights and standards", Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Facebook.

The Prime Minister appeared to have defused a potentially explosive row over the EU customs union on Monday night as Tory pro-Europe rebels Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan and Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Sir Bill Cash came together to table a separate compromise amendment backing "a customs arrangement" with the EU.

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