Labour forces government to retreat on eve of humiliating Brexit rebellion

LONDON — The government today agreed to opposition calls to set out their plans for Brexit, in a last minute attempt to avoid a potentially humiliating Commons defeat.

The Labour party were due to propose a motion tomorrow calling on the government to publish their Brexit plans in advance of triggering Article 50.

Dozens of Europhile Tory MPs were threatening to vote with the opposition, amid growing unease at the approach to Brexit taken by the government so far.

“There’s nothing in it that I disagree with,” Tory MP Anna Soubry said yesterday. “The contents of that motion are eminently supportable.”

Faced with a growing rebellion, the government this afternoon put forward their own amendment to Labour’s motion. The amendment agrees to Labour’s central call, but adds that the government should invoke Article 50 by the end of March 2017.

Such an amendment may appear to force Parliament to hand control of triggering Article 50 to the government, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing case in the Supreme Court.

However, any obligation on Parliament would only be symbolic, given that opposition day motions are non-binding.

It also remains unclear quite how much detail the government will be willing to publish. A statement put out by the Labour party this morning only called for the government to publish their “basic plan” for Brexit, while their proposed motion states that there should be “no disclosure of material that could be reasonably judged to damage the UK in any negotiations”.

Given that the government portrays all requests for details of their Brexit plans as potentially damaging to negotiations, May is likely to be left with huge amounts of wriggle room.

Asked about the government’s amendment this afternoon, the prime minister’s spokesman said they would not publish anything that hindered their negotiations.

“We have been very clear that what we want to see is the government being given the maximum flexibility,” he told the parliamentary lobby.

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