Brexit 'meaningful vote' rejected as PM strikes deal with Tory rebels

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn faced a brutal defeat in the Commons on Wednesday when six MPs quit Labour's frontbench in protest at the hard-left leader's plans to keep the United Kingdom inside the single market after Brexit.

The issue was at the heart of a knife-edge vote on Tuesday, which saw more than a dozen MPs, including Nicky Morgan and Ed Vaizey, called into the prime minister's office to be given last-minute reassurances their concerns would be addressed. But May's fragile minority administration faces more bumps ahead as it tries to forge an exit route while being buffeted by both sides of Britain's debate about Europe.

The concession came after intensive horse-trading on the floor of the House of Commons, with chief whip Julian Smith shuttling between Tory backbenchers during debate on Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

A series of further votes will take place on Wednesday, with no defeats expected after ministers agreed compromise wording over post-Brexit plans for a "customs arrangement".

Tory Remainers and Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, debating the Brexit bill for a second day in the Commons, said the inclusion of the Northern Ireland amendment meant the only option was to now "reproduce the customs union and the single market".

However, it is likely only a temporary reprieve. My view - and that of everyone who works on the People's Vote campaign - has always been that the people of Britain should be given the choice between leaving with whatever deal the Government eventually negotiates, or staying in the EU.

No government would survive if it tried to dispense with Parliament's input, he said.

Mrs May's divided Cabinet has yet to settle on what sort of customs deal Britain should have with the European Union or how it will deal with the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. And - tell you what - after the rally in Parliament Square, I'll even buy him a drink.

The most contentious was the bid to give Parliament the power to tell the government what to do if the Brexit deal was voted down or no agreement was reached.

So the rebels might sit tight until July, when they will have another opportunity to force May to change direction and keep closer ties to the bloc.

But while that vote seemed assured, tensions over Britain's departure from the European Union boiled over in parliament, where lawmakers from the Scottish National Party walked out in the middle of questions to the prime minister in protest at what their leader said was Scotland being ignored in the Brexit debate.

Jeff Smith is yet to comment but speaking ahead of the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "The Labour party respects the outcome of the European Union referendum and does not support the EEA or Norway model as it is not the right for option for Britain".

But as time ticks by, she can no longer kick decisions down the road, increasingly under pressure from European Union negotiators to come up with detailed positions not only on customs, but also on the wider trade agreement and governance.

In fresh signs of Tory infighting, former minister Nick Boles took a swipe at David Davis for his threats to resign over the Brexit "backstop" last week.

A paper laying out the UK's position on future relations has been delayed until next month, because the Cabinet can not agree on a united stance.

Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs had earlier walked out of the Commons in protest at what they said was the government's "contempt" for Scotland in the withdrawal process.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland said the government remained "open-minded", but this may or may not result in it coming forward with new proposals in the coming days.

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