Prime Minister hit by dramatic resignation as MPs debate Brexit

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 13, 2018

A series of further votes on the European Union withdrawal bill will take place on Wednesday, but no defeats are expected after ministers agreed a compromise wording over post-Brexit plans for a "customs arrangement".

This change sought to give greater powers to the "sifting committee", which would be established to decide whether recommendations proposed by ministers to amend retained European Union law after Brexit would require a Commons vote.

The meaningful vote is probably the most risky of the Lords amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill - because it tees up an unpredictable vote on the final terms of Brexit, towards the end of this year, and opens up the possibility that MPs could demand that ministers change policy, in the event the terms were rejected by the House, or no deal was reached in the talks with the EU.... they could even demand (drumroll) a second referendum... That has potentially seismic consequences for the protracted and increasingly messy split from Brussels. But for now, the government seems to have prevented an embarrassing defeat, and the Tory rebels have avoided the unpleasantness of colluding in the defeat of their Prime Minister.

The shift makes it significantly harder for the government to force through a "hard Brexit" outside the customs union and single market.

In a painful blow the the PM, Remain-supporting MP Philip Lee quit as justice minister this morning, saying he could not support "how our country's exit from the European Union looks set to be delivered". The government fears a weakened negotiating position.

Talks will now be held between ministers and Tory MPs uneasy with the government's handling of Brexit, in the hope of reaching an agreement before the legislation is passed back to the House of Lords.

Earlier, Brexit minister David Davis told parliament a government defeat would undermine negotiations with Brussels and warned lawmakers the government would never allow them to "reverse Brexit". "It enables parliament to dictate to the government their course of action in worldwide negotiations".

The upshot of the shift may well be as dramatic as the parliamentary procedure is incomprehensible.

The victory - by 324 votes to 298 - only came after public haggling between ministers and would-be rebels and a meeting between Mrs May and more than a dozen Tory MPs.

MPs, ministers and officials all agreed Tuesday that a soft Brexit or even the prospect of no Brexit is greatly increased - so too the prospect of a snap early election before the end of the year.

"The government can not demonstrate the flexibility necessary for a successful deal if its hands are tied midway through that process", he said.

"If we are heading for an impasse in November, everything is on the table".

Although these terms would not necessarily keep the United Kingdom in the customs union, defeat in the Commons would be politically explosive, as it would show May has no majority for one of her key "red lines".

Lee's resignation came as May's fragile minority government scrambled to shore up support among lawmakers before two days of debate and votes in the House of Commons on its flagship Brexit bill.

Lee said that within government he "found it virtually impossible to help bring sufficient change to the course on which we are bound".

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