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Analysis

Tory rebels won’t trust PM’s promises again

by Luke Lythgoe | 15.06.2018

“Unacceptable”. A “sneaky sting in the tail”. “Badly let down”. Those were just some of the angry responses by pro-European Tories after Theresa May rowed back at the last minute on her promises to give MPs a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.

The row centres on an amendment to May’s Withdrawal Bill tabled by Dominic Grieve, part of which aimed to give Parliament the power to “direct” the government if there was still no Brexit deal by February 15 – effectively stopping the government catastrophically crashing out of the EU on March 29.

To buy off a rebellion in the Commons on Tuesday, the prime minister had promised she would accept the thrust of the former attorney general’s amendment. And yesterday, Grieve agreed with the government’s new detailed language to that effect.

But then at the last minute, the government added what Sarah Wollaston, another pro-European rebel, calls the “sneaky sting in the tail”. Instead of having a meaningful vote at the end of the Brexit talks, MPs would merely be able to consider whatever statement the government made without being able to amend it – the technical jargon is “a motion in neutral terms” (see page 7).

Grieve said: “It is unacceptable. 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”.

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This eleventh-hour u-turn is unlikely do May much good. The House of Lords plans to reinsert Grieve’s original text when the Bill returns to them on Monday (see page 9). This will then be put before the Commons once more on Wednesday, as part of the parliamentary “ping pong” process.

The difference this time is that May has lost the trust of her pro-European backbenchers. On Wednesday May’s promised concessions bought off most of the Tory rebels, with only Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke still backing the amendment. It’ll be much harder to keep the lid on a rebellion next week if pro-Europeans can’t take her at her word.

It’s another time-wasting mess from the PM. No wonder a poll in The Times today found two thirds of people think the prime minister is handling Brexit badly.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Tory rebels won’t trust PM’s promises again”

  • Everyone knows that Grieve is a decent, ethical, reasonable man and May, like most Brexiteers, tells lies with no compunction. Problem is that decent ethical people are on the losing side, because the public has a sneaking admiration for gangsters.
    Ned Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Arron Banks, Nigel Farage, the list is endless. For Brexiteers read Buccaneers, it’s the romance of crime that powers Brexit.

  • There is only one solution. Mrs May must be defeated and the economic safety of the UK defended. Every day one reads about companies deciding to leave for the continent. This shows the huge damage being inflicted on the UK, Mrs May is well aware of this, yet her support for the enemy of the UK continues. The statement that the referendum must be obeyed is false. In spite of the false statements by the Brexit leaders, Parliament has earnestly tried to explore whether Brexit in any sane economic form is feasible. The answer is that Brexit is that it is not. Thus Parliament owes nothing to the band of bullies and the foolish brexit besotten prime minister.
    The government must be defeated in the next bill.