Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation has once more been thrown into doubt, after a compromise designed to keep Tory backbenchers on board was branded “disappointing” by leading rebels.
Pro-EU rebel Dominic Grieve has told ITV News: "I don't really understand why the Government has done this..."
The Prime Minister saw off defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill at the last minute on Tuesday by persuading rebels that she would offer concessions to address their concerns about being given a truly “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.
But an amendment tabled by Brexit Secretary David Davis on Thursday gives MPs no chance to block a “no deal” EU withdrawal if agreement has not been reached with Brussels by January 21 next year.
Instead, MPs would be allowed to vote only on a “neutral” motion, confirming that they have considered a statement by a minister on the issue. And crucially, the statement would be unamendable.
Mr Grieve told ITV News: “I do hope the Government will be sensible about this. It seems to me that the difference between us now is extremely narrow and I simply don't understand why they stuck on this point because effectively they were happy to concede it earlier on in discussions."
"It does really matter. The process by which we leave the EU will be one of the most important issues facing this country in modern times. The decisions we take are going to affect us, our children, our grandchildren. There have to be mechanisms for dealing with the risks that go with it and that's why I'm asking for the Government to cooperate with the House and many members of the Conservative Party in order to achieve this."
Mr Grieve previously tabled his own proposals, which would have allowed Parliament to dictate the next steps the Government should take if no deal was reached by the end of February. This was seen as a means for MPs to ensure that the UK did not crash out of the EU without a deal.
However, the Grieve amendment was not put to a vote on Tuesday, after would-be rebels accepted “personal assurances” from the PM that a compromise would be found.
Instead, the majority of the pro-EU Tories backed the Government in voting down a Lords amendment to give them the power to tell ministers to go back to Brussels and renegotiate.
Now Conservative peer Viscount Hailsham has re-tabled Mr Grieve’s amendment in the House of Lords, setting the scene for a fresh Government defeat when the Bill returns to the Second Chamber on Monday.
The row sets up the very real possibility of defeat for the Prime Minister as the EU Withdrawal Bill bounces between the Lords and Commons in the process of “parliamentary ping-pong” over the coming weeks, ahead of a crunch summit of European leaders in Brussels on June 28.