They’ll hand con­trol to pro-EU com­mit­tee of MPs if Mrs May’s deal dies

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Jack Doyle, John Stevens and Daniel Martin

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.

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