Parliament allowed to vote on final Brexit deal
BRITAIN: Britain’s Parliament will be given a ‘‘take-it or leave-it’’ vote on Brexit after ministers agreed to enshrine the deal in law, in a significant government concession.
David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, yesterday announced that MPs and peers will be given a binding vote on the final deal with Brussels.
However, the climbdown has prompted fears that pro-European Union MPs will attempt to frustrate Brexit with amendments in the hope of delaying or even postponing Britain’s departure.
Davis warned yesterday that Britain will leave the EU without a deal in March 2019 if MPs vote down the government’s final agreement with Brussels.
Davis’s concession came less than 24 hours before the House of Commons was due to begin debating the next stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, which transfers thousands of European laws and regulations on to the United Kingdom’s statute books.
The government is facing a huge rebellion over the proposed move, with more than 400 amendments tabled by MPs.
His intervention was an attempt to avert the crisis, and comes after the government was forced earlier this year to get Parliament’s support for invoking Article 50 after a legal challenge.
Tory rebels said the vote was ‘‘pointless’’ because it means Parliament cannot change the terms of the final deal.
Davis told the Commons the new law, which will cover areas including citizens’ rights, the so-called divorce bill and a transition period, would provide ‘‘certainty and clarity’’ as Britain left the EU.
He was asked by Owen Paterson, a Eurosceptic Tory MP, if Britain would leave ‘‘without an agreement’’ if MPs voted down the deal. He replied: ‘‘Yes.’’
He later added: ‘‘It’s a meaningful vote, but not meaningful in the sense that some believe meaningful [to be], which is that you can reverse the whole thing.’’
Davis said that while he was prepared to go back and talk to Brussels if the Commons tried to make changes to the deal, he was doubtful the timetable would allow any changes at that stage.
He was backed by European sources who warned that the deal would not be changed at the 11th hour. One source said: ‘‘If the UK Government comes back at 11pm on March 29, 2019 saying the House of Commons has amended ‘x, y and z’, then we would need to go back to council and Parliament.
‘‘But it is extremely difficult to imagine member states will start this whole process again once it has been ratified, particularly given how challenging the time is already.’’
The move infuriated pro-European Tories, who are preparing to rebel against government plans to enshrine the date that Britain leaves the EU in law.
Heidi Allen, a Tory rebel, said the vote would be ‘‘pointless’’ if Britain failed to secure a deal with Brussels until the 11th hour. ‘‘There’d be no time,’’ she said.
Antoinette Sandbach, another proEuropean Tory MP, said: ‘‘The announcement is meaningless if, for any reason, the timetable slips beyond March 2019.’’
Tensions over Brexit within the Conservative Party are increasing as the bill begins its next stage in the Commons. Up to a dozen Tory MPs are expected to say that they will vote against plans to enshrine the date that Britain leaves the EU in law.
Nicky Morgan, the Remainsupporting former education secretary, yesterday accused Prime Minister Theresa May of being ‘‘tin-eared and tone-deaf’’ on Brexit.
Over the next month MPs will debate more than 400 amendments, running into 186 pages.
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general and leading Brexit rebel, suggested that he would not drop an amendment of his own demanding a meaningful vote. He suggested that the Brexit deadline should be extended if Parliament voted to amend the final deal to allow talks with Brussels.
It came as Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said Labour would allow the European Court of Justice to retain some of its influence over UK law after Brexit. – Telegraph Group