U.K.'s May Scrambles for Brexit Compromise as Tory Tensions Rise

Jun 13, 2018, 18:58
U.K.'s May Scrambles for Brexit Compromise as Tory Tensions Rise

The main point of contention between those who want to keep the closest possible ties with the European Union and those who aim for a clean break is a demand to give parliament a "meaningful vote" on any agreement May negotiates with Brussels.

Few at Westminster expect a challenge to the prime minister's position this week.

Ministers saw off a move to give MPs the decisive say on what happens over Brexit if they do not agree with the deal negotiated by the United Kingdom government.

Some lawmakers tried to shout him down and accused the government of wanting too much power.

During a frantic day of discussions between ministers and Conservative backbenchers, potential rebels were eventually persuaded to back down when Solicitor General Robert Buckland told MPs that ministers were willing to "engage positively" with their concerns.

"There should be no doubt that if the government is defeated our negotiating hand is weakened and we will pay for that in the negotiations".

The frontpages of Leave-backing British newspapers said accepting the amendments would betray the 52% who backed Brexit in the seismic 2016 referendum.

"It's the Labour Party in Opposition which is trying to frustrate Brexit".

"The prime minister said that the votes were important in terms of the message they send to Brussels", May's spokesman said she told her cabinet team of ministers. Amendment 19 would enhance the powers of parliament in the Brexit process by making a Commons vote on the final withdrawal terms a "meaningful vote".

Brexit Secretary David Davis has warned Conservative Party rebels that proposals to give Parliament the power to direct negotiations with the European Union are simply a tactic to overturn the results of the 2016 referendum that mandated Britain's departure from the bloc. Rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve had signalled he was prepared to lead a revolt and inflict a second Brexit defeat on the Government.

If agreed, ministers would have until the end of November this year to secure a Brexit deal before seeking the approval of parliament.

"We have now removed every incentive from the European Union for doing a deal by the end of November", one senior United Kingdom government official said.

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.

Brexit Secretary David Davis urged MPs to "respect the result of the referendum" that approved the withdrawal.

And when justice minister Phillip Lee resigned in the hours before the vote to oppose Mrs May's Brexit strategy, the government realised it faced defeat.

There's no time to get the wording of the compromise text wrong because it will probably be debated and voted on in the House of Lords on Monday, according to one senior government official.

Earlier, May appeared to have also stemmed a rebellion over her commitment to leaving the EU's customs union which will transform Britain's trading relationships for decades to come.

Ms. May's minority government relies on the support of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party for a slender working majority in the 650-member Commons.

The SNP doesn't have any Lords because of an ideological disagreement with the concept of an unelected upper house - but it does have plenty of MPs in the Commons.

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