After compromise, Britains May set to avoid parliament defeat on customs

14 Juin, 2018, 14:56 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Dr Phillip Lee

Prime Minister Theresa May defeated the final challenges to her Brexit blueprint in parliament on Wednesday, leaving plans for Britain's departure from the European Union still largely on track but her authority weakened.

A potential defeat for the government on the customs union was headed off when it proposed a change of wording to the bill.

The government must start talks with a group of pro-EU Conservative lawmakers to find a new wording for its position on giving parliament a "meaningful vote" on a Brexit deal.

Corbyn instructed his MPs to abstain on the amendment, meaning they should neither vote for or against it.

Leading rebel Dominic Grieve said he hoped a compromise would be found, but if not, "this isn't the end of the matter".

"There is an understanding that discussions will take place, and that could end up with a further amendment", said the government's Solicitor-General, Robert Buckland.

Tory MP and former education secretary Justine Greening, who supported Remain in the European Union referendum, told Sky News in response: "I think what we all need to recognise is that the positions people are taking on Brexit are genuine and passionately held - and should be respected". A day after that vote, members of May's Cabinet and rebel Conservative lawmakers presented different interpretations of that promise, with the former saying it would not put the government under control of Parliament, and the latter claiming the opposite. It would temporarily align the United Kingdom with the EU customs union when the Brexit transition period ends in December 2020, taking effect if both sides failed to reach a customs agreement before then.

Pro-European Conservative, Nicky Morgan, told the BBC that May understands that "parliament wants to have a real say, in all circumstances". She now relies on the support of a small Northern Irish party.

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Mrs May said her approach would be guided by the principle that "the Government's hand in negotiations can not be tied by Parliament, but we need to be accountable to Parliament".

"I can not countenance Parliament being able to overturn the will of the British people", she added.

Brexit Secretary David Davis, who reportedly has clashed with May, has warned Conservative Party rebels that proposals to give Parliament the power to direct negotiations with the European Union are simply a tactic to overturn the results of the 2016 referendum that mandated Britain's departure from the bloc.

But, to the disappointment of some of pro-European MPs, Downing Street rejected a second plan that would allow parliament to step in if no deal were reached by February. At one point, six Labour frontbenchers quit party posts in defiance over Corbyn's single-market policy.

Earlier this month, the Labour leadership drafted its own amendment to replace the one of the EEA, demanding a vote on negotiating a new single market deal with the bloc.

In a few weeks, MPs will vote on another piece of Brexit-related legislation called the trade bill. It came hours after the SNP stormed from the Commons when their Westminster leader Ian Blackford was ordered out for ignoring demands to sit down during prime minister's questions by the speaker John Bercow.

The SNP MP told the same programme: "He ought to resign and the fact we have seen powers taken from the Scottish Parliament and our elected representatives have not been able to debate this is an utter, utter disgrace".

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