May’s Brexit date law hit by Tory rebellion
PM accused of ‘throwing bone’ to hard Eurosceptics as Remainers threaten new effort to keep Britain in EU
THERESA MAY is facing a rebellion from pro-european Tory MPS who have vowed to vote against her plan to enshrine in law the date Britain leaves the European Union.
The Government on Thursday tabled an amendment which formally commits Britain to leaving the EU at 11pm on March 29 2019 ahead of a debate and vote in the Commons next week. The Prime Minister warned Tory rebels in an article in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph that she would not tolerate attempts to stop or delay Brexit as the withdrawal bill makes its way through Parliament.
That prompted a furious backlash from Tory rebels who said they believed that the Government’s amendment to the EU withdrawal Bill would tie Britain’s hands and could hinder the chances of getting a good deal.
Labour was also considering voting against the plans amid concerns that it was being used by Mrs May to shore up her position.
Anna Soubry, minister for small business and a staunch Remainer, told The Telegraph: “It will tie our hands in a way that is not necessary. We might want to continue negotiations to secure a good deal.
“It doesn’t need to be in law and is only being done to placate hardline Brexiteers who were threatening to vote for [Eurosceptic Labour MP] Frank Field’s amendment.”
She said she would “need some persuading” not to vote against the amendment.
Another pro-european Tory MP said: “It is completely unacceptable. It looks to me as if the Government has decided to chuck a bone to the hard Brexiteers.
“It has some profound consequences. The Government themselves have said that securing a deal in time for the deadline may be difficult. It is ridiculous. It poisons ongoing talks with us before they have even begun.”
The row broke out as the architect of Article 50 said that Brexit could be reversed amid rumours that Remainers were planning to launch a “think again campaign” to stop the UK leaving. Lord Kerr, former UK ambassador to the European Union, said Mrs May’s decision to send the letter triggering the Article 50 withdrawal process did not mean Brexit was inevitable.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “At any stage we can change our minds if we want to, and if we did, we know that our partners would actually be very pleased indeed.”
Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, became the latest senior Remain figure to suggest the UK could hold a second referendum.
Other senior figures from the Remain campaign believe the public can be convinced Britain should stay in the EU as Brexit gets closer to becoming a reality. Tony Blair, another former Labour prime minister, and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat and former deputy prime minister, have also argued for the UK to stay in the EU.
But David Jones, a Tory Eurosceptic MP, said: “There is no doubt they are gearing up for a ‘think again’ style campaign.
“This is the way they operate. If they don’t get the answer they like they tell the voters to come back again with the right answer.
“The old establishment – the mandarins, the former prime ministers – are ganging up to have one last go at keeping us in the European Union. There would be outrage in the country. It’s disrespectful to the electorate.”
Theresa May wrote in yesterday’s Daily
Telegraph that she would not tolerate attempts to put the brakes on Brexit