Theresa May faces Tory amendments to Article 50 bill
Tory backbenchers push to ensure PM cannot leave negotiations with EU leaders without a fresh deal.
Theresa May - credit: PA
Prime Minister Theresa May is facing calls from Conservative backbenchers to change the terms of Westminster’s vote on the final Brexit deal.
The Government will face a string of amendments to its Article 50 bill this week, with some Conservative MPs looking to ensure the Prime Minister cannot leave negotiations with EU leaders without a fresh deal.
With the bill entering its next stage in Parliament MPs are also looking to ensure Westminster is given a vote on the deal before it goes to the European Parliament for ratification.
That could mean backing an amendment tabled by Labour MP Chris Leslie to require the Government to give MPs and peers a say before MEPs have their vote.
But a government source told the Guardian that the demands were not practical, and while Theresa May was keen to accommodate Tory concerns these particular moves would “hamstring” ministers in the Brexit talks.
And the source added that it could lead to “perpetual Brexit purgatory” if MPs continually rejected deals and sent ministers back to the drawing board.
Leading Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker yesterday claimed 27 Conservative MP are planning to “wreck” the Government’s Article 50 bill by supporting amendments this week.
Some Remain-supporting MPs believe Baker’s statement was an attempt to put pressure on them not to defy the Government.
The Mail on Sunday put the number of potential Tory rebels at closer to a dozen, including former ministers Ken Clarke, Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve and Nicky Morgan.
Another Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael, wrote a piece for the MoS arguing that Parliament must be able to stop a so-called “cliff-edge” Brexit.
He said it must be for MPs to decide whether to carry through May’s threat to walk away from negotiations without a deal if the EU does not offer sufficiently appealing terms.
The Sun reports that ministers have been holding talks with Brexit voting Labour MPs in a bid to neutralise the threat from the Conservative benches.
One senior Labour MP told the paper: “There are conversations going on across the floor.
“Any amendment will have the effect of delaying or obstructing Brexit so I am minded to vote against them.”
The Government’s European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill will appear back in the Commons this week where it is set to face a series of amendments.
According to the Guardian, Labour MPs have been told to cancel leave and prepare for a three-line whip to support triggering Article 50.
It comes after Jeremy Corbyn said he would be “lenient” on the 13 rebel frontbenchers who defied him last week at the bill’s second reading to oppose invoking the Brexit process.
Three Shadow Cabinet members resigned to defy the leadership, while pressure has been growing on Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who missed last week’s vote due to a migraine.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour could withdraw amendments from the Article 50 bill if ministers give private assurances that the Opposition’s priorities will be reflected in the process.
Labour has tabled a series of proposed changes to the legislation, demanding protections for workers’ rights, a “meaningful” vote on the final deal and ensuring EU citizens’ right to stay in the UK.
The party is relying on Tory backbenchers to support its amendments for them to have any chance of passing.
Thornberry said Labour would accept commitments through “back channels” from ministers regarding their concerns in lieu of the Government accepting any of their proposed legislative changes.
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