Sunday, 24 June, 2018

United Kingdom justice minister resigns over Brexit ahead of key votes

Patty Aguilar | 13 June, 2018, 11:21

The Government has managed to fend off a major rebellion after parliament rejected an amendment to bring a "meaningful vote" on the final Brexit deal.

Mr Grieve's proposal will now be added to the legislation.

Mr Grieve withdrew his own amendment, which would have given MPs powers to dictate what the Government should do if no acceptable agreement is reached by February 2019.

It is believed the deal will see parliament playing a bigger role in Brexit negotiations if there is no deal by November 30 this year.

Crucially, ministers have conceded that if MPs vote down the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels, that will not result in the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union with no deal - a scenario that few MPs would countenance because of the significant economic damage it would entail.

The Prime Minister appeared to have defused a potentially explosive row over the EU customs union on Monday night as Tory pro-Europe rebels Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan and Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Sir Bill Cash came together to table a separate compromise amendment backing "a customs arrangement" with the EU.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve had been a repeat rebel in previous debates, but he voted with the government after "personal assurances" from Theresa May - because he is "quite satisfied" MPs will end up with a meaningful vote anyway.

May objected to the amendment - inserted by the House of Lords - because she said it would tie her hands in the negotiation.

Leading Conservative rebels welcomed the "important concessions" by the government, but insisted that ministers must follow through on their concession or face a defeat when the bill returns to the House of Commons later this month.

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Tory MP Anna Soubry has told MPs that she knows of at least one Conservative colleague who will not vote with their conscience on the Brexit bill due to fears of violence against themselves, their family, or their staff.

Conservative lawmaker Phillip Lee resigned as a justice minister Tuesday so he could speak out against the policy on Brexit.

Mrs May is coming under increasing pressure from European Union negotiators to come up with detailed positions not only on customs, but also on future trade relations and governance.

In the event, Dr Lee abstained on the crucial vote, saying he was "delighted" the Government had agreed to introduce an amendment giving Parliament "the voice I always wanted it to have in the Brexit process".

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.

The cumulative effect of 14 Lords amendments which the Government is seeking to overturn could be to "make it impossible to deliver the smooth and orderly exit we want", he warned.

Labour said May had been forced to avoid a "humiliating defeat" and "to enter negotiations with her backbenchers".

"I've been through this before when in opposition and now that when we're in Government, because if the House makes the concession of allowing the dialogue to continue and I can see the merit of that happening, it has got to be done in good faith". Sources have said the government is happy to implement the first two points and will discuss the last one.

"Time will tell as to whether this is just another attempt to buy off the rebels or a real attempt at consensus". "At the start of this process, we had no vote in Parliament on the final deal at all. There could be a confidence motion [in the prime minister] or an early general election".

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