Theresa May risks defeat as she dares furious Tory rebels to vote down 'unacceptable' Brexit deal

GettyTheresa May has given into the demands of pro-EU Conservative MPs.
  • Conservative MPs react with fury as they accuse Theresa May of breaking her promise to give parliament a veto on a no-deal Brexit.
  • The UK prime minister risks defeat on her Brexit legislation as she dares pro-EU rebels to vote her down.
  • The government’s new amendment to the EU withdrawal bill is likely to be rejected by the House of Lords, meaning a major Commons showdown is on the cards.
  • Defeat on the bill would cause a leadership crisis for May.

LONDON – Theresa May is risking a major parliamentary defeat on Brexit which could bring down her government, after pro-EU Conservative rebel MPs accused her of breaking her promise to offer Parliament a veto on leaving the EU without a deal.

The government slipped out a new amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill late on Thursday afternoon, which will offer MPs a vote in February 2019 if the prime minister has failed to secure a Brexit deal from the EU.

However, the vote will not give Parliament an explicit veto on Britain leaving the EU without a deal, which is contrary to what pro-EU MPs – including a powerful group of Conservative “rebels” – say they were promised by the prime minister this week.

In the final text of the amendment published on Thursday, no effective veto on a no-deal Brexit is offered to MPs. Instead, MPs will be offered a vote on an unamendable statement, which would effectively turn any vote into to a vote of confidence in the prime minister.

The Conservative rebels reacted with fury to the new amendment, dismissing it as “unacceptable” and a breach of what they were promised.

“It is unacceptable,” leading rebel Dominic Grieve told the BBC.

“At the end of the process, something was inexplicably changed, which had not been agreed. The government has made the motion unamendable, contrary to the usual methods of the House of Commons and therefore it cannot be accepted.”

His Conservative colleague Anna Soubry accused the government of breaking promises made to the rebels.

“Grateful for the conversations but without consultation what was agreed earlier today has been changed,” she said.

Fellow backbencher Sarah Woolaston said there was no majority in parliament for the government’s position.

“There is no attempt here to overturn the referendum or to micromanage the negotiations simply that the majority of MPs will not support a cliff-edge no-deal Brexit & will insist on a meaningful vote,” she tweeted.

Labour said the offer was “not good enough.”

“The Government’s amendment is simply not good enough,” the Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said.

“Theresa May has gone back on her word and offered an amendment that takes the meaning out of the meaningful vote. Parliament cannot – and should not – accept it.”

May plays chicken with Remain rebels

Anna Soubry and Nicky MorganChris J Ratcliffe / GettyConservative MPs Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan

The latest development means that the House of Lords are unlikely to accept the government’s latest offer and will return the Bill to the House of Commons next week with a fresh amendment.

The chances of the government being defeated when the Bill returns to the House of Commons later this month has now risen significantly, with trust between May and her MPs at an all-time low.

It means rebels will be forced to either accept May’s offer or inflict a hugely damaging defeat on the government.

The rebels, led by former minister Grieve, stepped back from defeating the government on Tuesday after they were privately told that a concession on a no-deal veto would be forthcoming.

Both Grieve and Soubry believed they had won their concession from the government after extensive talks with the government in the days following the vote

However, May’s decision to refuse to offer MPs a veto means the future of her Brexit legislation and her authority as prime minister are now once again back in doubt.

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