A Tory rebellion could hand MPs a veto on ‘Hard Brexit’

Theresa May
Theresa May. Jack Taylor / Getty
  • 20 Tory MPs prepared to rebel against Prime Minister Theresa May.
  • MPs want a “meaningful vote” on May’s final Brexit deal.
  • CBI president warns against crashing out of European Union on World Trade Organisation terms.
  • Pressure is growing to avoid a “hard Brexit.”

LONDON — MPs could be given a veto on a “hard Brexit” as Conservative MPs prepare to defy the prime minister and back a Lords amendment which would give politicians the final say on the deal Theresa May secures from Brussels.

The Telegraph reports that around 20 Conservative MPs are prepared to back a Lords amendment to the Brexit bill on giving Parliament a “meaningful vote” on May’s final Brexit package.

If passed, it would force the prime minister to secure agreement from Parliament to the terms of her deal with the other 27 EU members before it is debated and voted on in the European Parliament.

Crucially, the amendment would also force May to seek the approval of Parliament before leaving the EU without any agreement on EU.

May has previously said she is prepared to crash out of the EU on WTO terms if MPs refuse to back her deal, saying that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

The House of Commons has also previously rejected an amendment on a final meaningful vote, albeit by a smaller margin than any other amendment to the Brexit bill.

However, pressure has been growing to avoid a “hard Brexit” — Britain leaving the EU without access to the Single Market in lieu of total control over immigration.

Last night the CBI warned that leaving the EU on WTO terms would open a “Pandora’s box” and seriously damage the economy both in the UK and Europe.

“Wherever I go across Europe, I hear concerns about the UK leaving without a deal and falling into World Trade Organisation rules,” Paul Drechsler said in a speech in London on Thursday evening.

“We should be under no illusions about what this would really mean. A ‘no deal’ scenario would open a Pandora’s Box of economic consequences.

“The UK would face tariffs on 90% of its EU exports by value and a raft of new regulatory hurdles. Let’s remember these barriers would hurt firms on both sides of the Channel.”

“Here in the UK and across the continent firms are worried about this ‘worst-case scenario.’ Some are getting ready for it to reduce economic damage. Some won’t prepare because they’re hoping for a deal. But in reality many firms can’t prepare because the cost of change is simply too high to even consider it.”

“No deal is better than a bad deal”

A spokesperson for the prime minister told a briefing attended by Business Insider on Thursday that “our position is clear. We will be seeking a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU.”

Pressed on whether the prime minister would still be prepared to crash out of the EU on WTO terms, he replied:

“The prime minister was pretty clear on that in her Lancaster House speech.”

The government was heavily defeated in the Lords on Wednesday on the question of whether EU citizens should have their rights guaranteed after Brexit.

Once the Lords finish debating which amendments they want to pass next week, the bill will potentially “ping-pong” back and forth between the Commons and Lords on the 13th and 14th of March before a final version can be agreed.

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