Conservative rebel MPs demand power to delay Brexit

  • Rebel Conservative MPs have demanded that parliament should be able to delay Brexit.
  • Pro-EU Tory backbencher Anna Soubry has laid out three tests for the withdrawal bill in order for her and two dozen other Conservatives to vote for it.
  • 19 Conservative MPs have written to Theresa May criticising their colleagues who are pushing for a hard Brexit.

LONDON – Conservative rebel MPs will tell Theresa May next week that parliament should be given the power to delay Brexit if she wants them to vote for the government’s withdrawal bill.

Backbench Tory and former minister Anna Soubry wants MPs to be able to attempt to delay the Article 50 process in a scenario where the UK has not reached a favourable deal with the European Union by the end of March 2019.

She is understood to have the support by as many as two-dozen other pro-EU Conservative MPs ahead of a key vote next week,The Times reported.

MPs will vote on an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that calls for a “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal next week, with Labour likely to back Conservative rebels and defeat the government.

In an article for The Times, Soubry with Labour MP Chuka Umunna argued that “the British people must now take control” of the Brexit process.

She also wrote that the withdrawal bill needs to pass three tests before pro-EU MPs will vote for it.

The first test is that a vote on the Brexit deal must come before the UK leaves the EU, and the second is that parliament must see “comprehensive details” of the deal before being asked to agree, not just “heads of terms.”

Soubry argued that if sufficient detail is not achieved by the end of the Article 50 process, the government should seek an extension of the “negotiation timetable” so this can happen.

The third test is that the deal “should be approved by way of a legally binding act of parliament which should be passed before the prime minister signs any agreement.”

Soubry and Umunna wrote: “If the government is serious about reasserting parliamentary sovereignty, it should have no objections to these very reasonable demands.”

The article is understood to have the backing of up to 24 rebels, including those who were labelled “mutineers” by a Daily Telegraph front page in November.

The amendment on a “meaningful vote” is expected to be the most contentious vote in the withdrawal bill when it comes to the Commons next week.

19 Conservative MPs who supported Remain have also written to the prime minister criticising their pro-Brexit Tory colleagues who “seek to impose their own conditions on these negotiations” and present a no-deal WTO scenario as “some status quo.”

Independent Unionist MP Lady Hermon warned about the dangers of no-deal when discussing her amendment to the withdrawal bill which would enshrine the Good Friday Agreement in it on Wednesday.

She said: “May I just say ever so loudly and strongly to senior members of the Conservative Party: I do not want to hear them or see them on television talking about pushing ahead with no deal.

“In the event of no deal, we certainly face a hard border and dissident republicans will regard Police Service of Northern Ireland officers, HMRC officers and UK border officials as legitimate targets.”

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