Saturday 29 April 2017

British government sees off rebels in Brexit bill vote

British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Brexit minister David Jones earlier told MPs there would be a vote on the deal “before it is concluded” and it is intended to take place before the European Parliament debates and votes on the agreement. Photo: PA

Laura Hughes and Leon Watson in London

The British Government last night decisively struck down an amendment to its Brexit bill calling for MPs and peers to have the final say on any deal to leave the European Union.

MPs voted 326 to 293 to reject amendment 110 tabled by Labour MP Chris Leslie.

A handful of Tory MPs supported it, but the motion was passed by a majority of 33.

Seven Conservative MPs, Ken Clarke, Bob Neill, Andrew Tyrie, Claire Perry, Anna Soubry, Antoinette Sandbach and Heidi Allen, defied their party whip.

But their protest was virtually cancelled out by six Labour MPs, Frank Field, Ronnie Campbell, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Graham Stringer and Gisela Stuart, who voted with the government.

Tory rebels hit out at the government after it appeared to make a concession to appease Remain campaigners, only to later play down suggestions it had made any compromise.

Conservative former education secretary Nicky Morgan was seen having a heated exchange with the party’s chief whip, Gavin Williamson, before returning to the backbenches while the vote took place.

She tweeted: “Govt did make a concession but for No 10 to then brief there was no change & Minister to undermine it makes no sense.”

Conservative former minister Bob Neill said he had voted against the government “for the first time ever”.

Tory MP Heidi Allen rebelled, tweeting: “I’ve just voted in support of new clause 110, along with many conservative colleagues.”

Former chancellor George Osborne failed to turn up for the vote.

The amendment to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill from Chris Leslie required parliament to approve any new treaty or relationship before final agreement with the EU, but was defeated by 326 votes to 293.

Brexit minister David Jones earlier told MPs there would be a vote on the deal “before it is concluded” and it is intended to take place before the European Parliament debates and votes on the agreement.

Labour claimed the move as a “significant victory” in response to its repeated demands for a “meaningful” vote at the end of the two-year negotiation process.

But pressure group Open Britain said it should be rejected as a “con” and many MPs hit out at the refusal to give them a veto should no Brexit deal be agreed.

Downing Street played down suggestions the move amounted to a concession to potential Conservative rebels, insisting that it merely clarified the timing of the vote promised by Prime Minister Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech last month.

Meanwhile, Mrs May has declined to give her “full confidence” in John Bercow, after his extraordinary attack on Donald Trump in the House of Commons on Monday, when the Speaker said the US president would not be welcome to address parliament in his upcoming state visit.

Mr Bercow told the Commons that he was “strongly opposed” to the president addressing parliament, and an invite to do so was “not an automatic right” but an “earned honour”.

Asked for her reaction to Mr Bercow’s remarks, her spokesperson said: “What John Bercow suggests to parliament is a matter for parliament. “What I will set out is our position, which is we’ve extended this invitation to the president and we look forward to receiving him later this year.”

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