British MPs deal yet another blow to May's plan

11 January, 2019, 12:38 | Author: Emmett Rice
  • Image      MPs are due to vote on the PM's EU exit agreement in the next 10 days

The Prime Minister offered MPs new assurances that Parliament will be able to exercise control over the controversial European Union "backstop" if they back her Brexit deal in a crunch vote next week.

If Mrs May's Brexit withdrawal agreement is rejected in a crunch vote in the House of Commons next week then the government must reveal its "Plan B" within three days.

Immediately prior to today's crucial vote, the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, was forced to respond to over an hour of procedural questions from Tory MPs, most of whom were infuriated that the Speaker had allowed MPs a vote on the controversial amendment.

"I am clear in the mind that I have taken the right course", he said.

Previously, the Government had three weeks to bring forward new proposals if it is defeated in the "meaningful vote" on Tuesday, with a further vote to take place a week later.

The prime minister has already postponed the vote once - in December - to avoid defeat by MPs, but has insisted next week´s will go ahead.

He said the deadlock could be broken if the United Kingdom gained legally binding assurances from the European Union that the backstop would be a temporary arrangement.

The Government would remain under an global obligation to keep the border open, and it is understood ministers would be expected to seek alternative arrangements, possibly involving the use of new technology, within the 12-month deadline.

This echoed his widely misinterpreted comment earlier this week, when accusing the Prime Minister of engaging in "Project Fear" - a reference to the futility and expense of no-deal prep, not the argument hard Brexiteers make that no-deal is nothing to be feared.

Mr Bercow allowed a vote on the amendment which was ultimately approved by 308 votes to 297, majority 11.

Hunt insisted there was only one issue causing the deadlock over May's deal and that was the backstop mechanism, created to ensure there was no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

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She repeated that resolve during a noisy Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons, telling the main opposition leader, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, and other MPs that the best way to avert a no-deal Brexit was to vote for her deal.

After heckles from Conservative members, he added: "I'm trying to do the right thing and make the right judgments".

Mr Bercow added: "I have been doing it, I'm continuing to do it and I will go on doing it, no matter how much abuse I get from whatever quarter".

Ministers argued that the Government-tabled motion was not amendable and so Mr Grieve's amendment should not have been tabled for a vote.

Opponents of the agreement suspect the government may try to run down the clock, to leave Parliament facing a last-minute choice between May's deal and a no-deal Brexit. This would force parliamentarians to choose between the backstop - i.e. their main objection to the deal - and paying more to the European Union without representation, which is bound to be offensive to their constituents.

"I think it probably would have been against the advice of most people on parliamentary procedure".

Brexiteer former minister Crispin Blunt warned many no longer regarded him as a neutral arbiter of Commons proceedings and urged him to "reflect" on his position.

Referring to reports shadow worldwide trade secretary Barry Gardiner had described Labour's official Brexit position in the same way, Mr Gove said: "I know, Mr Speaker, there are some distinguished citizens in this country who have put on their cars a poster or sticker saying bollocks to Brexit".

"A government that can not get its business through the House of Commons is no government at all", he said.

Mrs May retorted: "The only way to avoid no-deal is to vote for the deal".

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