British PM avoids Brexit defeat in knife-edge parliament vote

Blanche Robertson
June 14, 2018

The victory was the first major win in two days of debates on the government's European Union withdrawal bill, which will sever ties with the European Union, after the upper house of parliament, the House of Lords, introduced 15 changes. The prime minister still has time to come up with a form of words acceptable to both sides, but the expectations of the anti-Brexit rebels have been raised significantly. They included 75 who supported EEA membership and 15 who opposed it.

Pro-Brexit politicians argue that staying in an EU customs union would limit Britain's freedom to trade with other countries.

She told BBC Radio 4's World At One that "at least half a dozen" junior ministers had been "very uncomfortable for some time" at the Government's direction on Brexit.

This change sought to give greater powers to the "sifting committee", which would be established to decide whether recommendations proposed by ministers to amend retained European Union law after Brexit would require a Commons vote.

That amendment would compel the Government to prioritise the EEA deal, known as the Norway Model.

Davis warned lawmakers the government would never allow them to "reverse Brexit" and called on them to back its own amendment, which proposes a 28-day breathing space if parliament rejects a Brexit deal, during which the government would have to make a statement on its plans.

But in extraordinary scenes, ministers were forced to offer last-minute compromises to pro-European MPs before holding private talks in corners of the chamber as the debate raged on.

During Commons exchanges, supporters of the EEA said it would be an economic "lifeboat" for the United Kingdom after Brexit by reducing the disruption to business.

MPs force major soft Brexit shift
The Daily Express featured the British flag as its front page with the headline: "Ignore the will of the people at your peril". Pro-Brexit tabloid the Sun warned lawmakers on Tuesday's front page that they had a choice: "Great Britain or great betrayal".

May has promised to give the British parliament a vote on the final deal, but the question is what happens if lawmakers decide to reject it.

But the resignation by Phillip Lee, who has always been critical of the government's Brexit strategy, underlined the deep rifts in the party over Brexit that makes such votes anything but easy.

The government was putting a combative spin on the concessions Tuesday evening: "The Brexit Secretary has set out three tests that any new amendment has to meet - not undermining the negotiations, not changing the constitutional role of Parliament and Government in negotiating worldwide treaties, and respecting the referendum result", a spokesperson for the Brexit department said in a statement.

Labour's divisions were laid bare when Jeremy Corbyn was hit by six frontbench resignations and 89 MPs defied him in a key Brexit vote.

Elsewhere in a day of drama, the main opposition Labour party suffered a large rebellion by its MPs seeking to keep Britain in the EU's single market. She now relies on the support of a small Northern Irish party.

But her concession to parliament means that lawmakers now have more power if she fails to secure a Brexit deal, which may lead to a softer approach to Britain's divorce.

May urged Conservative lawmakers to back the government and show "that we are united as a party in our determination to deliver on the decision made by the British people".

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