United Kingdom justice minister resigns over Brexit ahead of key votes

Blanche Robertson
June 13, 2018

Theresa May has suffered a ministerial resignation ahead of crunch Commons votes on Brexit, with Phillip Lee hitting out at the Government's "irresponsible" approach.

Facing the prospect of losing a vote on a crucial amendment to the government's flagship Brexit legislation - which was created to empower parliament to vote down the final deal without risking a "no-deal" exit from the bloc - ministers intervened with a concession at the 11th hour even as MPs were wrapping up debate on the controversial measure.

So just hours after the concession, (or non-concession) very, very dark mutterings began from those who had been persuaded by what they thought was a promise.

Government sources signalled to the Press Association that ministers were set to back the move.

She has previously spoken of the threats she faced for challenging the government, and revealed that one colleague would not be voting as they wished this week for fear of reprisals.

"The prime minister said that the votes were important in terms of the message they send to Brussels", May's spokesman said she told her cabinet team of ministers. May told Tory MPs late on June 11. The Daily Express thundered: "Ignore the will of the people at your peril".

"The time has come for our elected representatives to decide - are you or are you not the servants of the people?"

A Downing Street source said: "We will get a good Brexit deal that works for everybody in the UK. I'm fairly confident we will be able to do that". "But if the Lords amendments are allowed to stand, that negotiating position will be undermined".

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What is the EU Withdrawal Bill?

Conservative MPs keen to retain the changes.

Earlier, a junior minister resigned to fight for a "meaningful vote" for MPs, saying the government was offering a "fake choice" between "a bad deal and no deal".

Lee said that within government he "found it virtually impossible to help bring sufficient change to the course on which we are bound".

"The government have conceded that this is necessary and I expect to see a new amendment to cover this situation soon".

It was carefully crafted in an effort to appease her Brexit Secretary, David Davis, who had threatened to quit if there was no cut-off date.

That came after the embarrassing spectacle of government minister Robert Buckland effectively negotiating with Grieve, through a series of interventions in the rebel backbencher's speech, in what Anna Soubry called "a peculiar sort of horse-trading" - and then literally negotiating with him, in whispered exchanges, as the debate went on around them.

Both the U.K.'s and EU's proposals are supposed to be temporary and to act as an insurance policy until the two sides strike a long-term trade deal that maintains an invisible border. "Labour will only vote for a final Brexit deal if it delivers a strong relationship with the single market based on full tariff-free access and ensures no loss of rights and standards", Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Facebook.

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