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

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Steven Swin­ford DEPUTY PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR

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

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