REVEALED: BREXIT COUP PLOTTER'S BLUEPRINT FOR POWER
They’ll hand control to pro-EU committee of MPs if Mrs May’s deal dies
FULL details of a plot by rebel MPs to seize control of Brexit can be revealed today.
If Theresa May loses tomorrow’s crunch vote, authority for drawing up a new negotiating blueprint could pass to a panel of senior backbenchers, the Mail understands. The liaison committee, which is dominated by Remainers by a margin of 27 to nine, would be charged with coming up with a proposal supported by MPs.
The Prime Minister would then be required to go to Brussels to negotiate for it – in all likelihood creating a much softer Brexit. The dramatic move would mean tearing up the Commons rule book – giving backbench MPs the power to propose legislation instead of the Government.
A Cabinet minister described it as a ‘ copper- bottomed, bulletproof plan to sink Brexit which relies on the fact the Government has no majority and the Speaker will bend the rules’. A draft Bill,
which the Mail understands has been drawn up by former ministers Nick Boles, Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan, will be published today. All three backed Remain, but are expected to vote for Mrs May’s plan tomorrow.
A source close to the move said the changes to the standing orders of the House of Commons would be temporary and would be reversed after Brexit.
The source said: ‘We all want Brexit to happen on March 29, that is our first preference.’
A leading figure behind the move added: ‘This is not a wholesale reordering of the British constitution. It would be a one- off surgical strike and afterwards things would go back to normal.’
Under the plan, the Prime Minister would have 21 days to come up with an alternative Brexit deal.
If none is found, responsibility for developing one would pass to the liaison committee which is made up of the chairmen
‘Overturn the way democracy works’
of the 26 Commons select committees. It is chaired by Dr Sarah Wollaston, who is a leading campaigner for a second referendum.
The committee’s proposal would have to be approved by MPs with ministers ordered to reopen talks with Brussels.
If time is short Article 50, could be extended, meaning the UK would stay in the EU. If Brussels refused this, Article 50 would be revoked, in effect cancelling Brexit. The liaison committee would be expected to propose a version of Brexit involving membership of – or a much closer relationship with – the single market and customs union.
Mr Boles has long advocated the ‘Norway’ model which would keep the UK in the single market.
Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom said the move by proEU MPs was ‘incredibly dangerous’ and would change the way Parliament worked.
The plotters want backbench motions to take precedence over Government business if Mrs May’s deal is defeated tomorrow. This would strip ministers of control and put Brexit at risk.
Mrs Leadsom said this threatened ‘ the relationship between the people and those who govern them’.
Her stark warning comes at the start of what could be the most momentous week in British politics since the Second World War. In other developments:
Four Tory MPs last night came out in support of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement because of concerns about the threat to Brexit if it is voted down;
The Prime Minister will today say she believes Parliament is more likely to block Brexit than allow no deal;
Jeremy Corbyn said he would put down a vote of no confidence in the Government if the deal is rejected;
The Labour leader suggested he would keep Britain’s borders open to migrants if he took power;
Tory rebel Dominic Grieve teamed up with Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable to publish draft legislation for a second referendum;
The European Union’s two top leaders are today expected to publish letters reassuring MPs the Irish border backstop will be time-limited;
Brussels sources claimed the EU was preparing to delay Brexit until July after concluding Mrs May would lose the meaningful vote.
Sir Oliver Letwin refused to comment yesterday on claims that he is helping to lead the plot to rewrite Commons rules.
Mrs Leadsom, who as Leader of the House is in charge of setting the timetable for Parliament, said it was wrong to undermine ‘centuries of convention and the rulebook’.
She added: ‘The reason why our Parliament is looked up to around the world is because we have the right balance between the executive, the Government who proposes legislation and the timetable, and then a very strong tradition of scrutiny.
‘I am incredibly concerned about it. I am a huge supporter of Parliament and the rights of Parliament, but to overturn the way we run our democracy is an incredibly dangerous prospect.’
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it would be a huge mistake for MPs to take control of the Brexit process from ministers.
‘My message to anyone who is thinking of that is, this is not a one-off over Brexit. You would change the whole nature of the passage of legislation in the future,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Mr Boles dismissed talk of a plot, saying: ‘Apparently I am planning a coup. Odd sort of coup that requires a majority of democratically elected MPs to vote for it before the tanks start rolling.’
Pro-EU Tory MP Anna Soubry accused Downing Street of spreading fake news in order to scare Conservative colleagues from voting against the PM’s plan.
Mrs May will today use a speech to factory workers in Stoke to warn that trust in politicians will suffer ‘catastrophic harm’ if they fail to implement the result of the referendum.
Downing Street’s strategy of highlighting how ministers could lose control if the PM’s deal is voted down appeared to bear fruit last night as four Tory Brexiteers who had previously been wavering came out in support.
DRUNK on delusions of their own grandeur, a coterie of backbench MPs conspires to overthrow the legitimate government and seize the levers of power.
No, this is not happening in some failed banana republic or corrupt Third World dictatorship, but here in Britain – the Mother of Parliaments.
Being Westminster, naturally the leaders of this coup attempt wear grey suits rather than combat fatigues. And their weapons are not tanks and guns but arcane procedural motions.
But their ambition is the same as any such insurgents – to wrest control.
We are talking of course about the bid by Remain-supporting MPs to force through changes to key Commons procedures that have lasted more than 130 years.
It would mean motions submitted by backbenchers would take precedence over Government business – and it’s a recipe for anarchy. In a House where there is no majority for anything – Brexit-related or otherwise – how could this loose affiliation of backbenchers even presume to lead the country?
Even if they had the means to govern, they certainly don’t have the talent or experience – most being failed ministers, or serial attention-seekers, or both.
True, Brexit was about returning Parliamentary sovereignty from Brussels to Westminster. But not so it could be handed to a self-appointed clique, whose main aim is to thwart the explicit will of the people.
Yet they plough on regardless with their hubristic grand plan, encouraged by a partisan and ridiculously vain Speaker. The last thing on any of their minds seems to be the national interest.
And some of their pious attempts at selfjustification are truly risible.
Tory Nick Boles (who, under David Cameron, rose to the dizzy heights of junior business minister) was typical. How could this be a coup, he asked, when those taking part were ‘democratically elected MPs’?
Well yes, they were democratically elected – but on the platform of taking Britain out of the EU. Scheming to sabotage Brexit now could hardly be more undemocratic.
Perhaps we should remind the plotters of some hard facts. Just 18 months ago, 85 per cent of the general election vote went to parties whose manifestos pledged to uphold the referendum.
By that time MPs had already triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – formal notice of our intention to leave – by a huge 498-114 majority, and both main party leaders said they would take Britain out of the single market and customs union.
So what possible moral authority could there be in any government, or pseudo-government, which seeks to overturn these promises? Answer: none. It’s nothing less than a fraud against the voting public. Democracy is supposed to be the government by the people, for the people – not by MPs, for MPs.
There is, however, a solution to the looming shambles. One proposal on the table would honour the referendum without propelling us to the economic chaos of no-deal. That is Theresa May’s deal ( now supported by a comfortable majority of Conservative voters).
Sadly, all the signs are that it will be heavily defeated in the Commons tomorrow. But if the margin of defeat is not too catastrophic, there is still a chance that a version of the deal – if bolstered by more concrete reassurances from Brussels on the Northern Irish backstop – could eventually succeed.
If it doesn’t, we are indeed in uncharted waters – with jagged reefs on every side. MPs must ask themselves if they would prefer to navigate such treacherous seas under the captaincy of Mrs May – or a divided Commons that appears to have lost its compass.