MPs will not be allowed to overturn will of people on Brexit, says May

Theresa May has said that UK Parliament cannot be allowed to “overturn the will of the British people” on Brexit.

The Prime Minister was speaking as she confirmed that the Government will table a new amendment to her flagship EU Withdrawal Bill, setting out in more detail the terms of the “meaningful vote” promised to MPs on the final Brexit deal.

Mrs May saw off a threatened defeat on the issue in the Commons on Tuesday by assuring would-be rebels personally that she would take their concerns on board.

But pro-EU Tories are warning that they remain ready to rebel if their demands are not satisfied by the compromise amendment, expected to be tabled on Thursday ahead of the bill’s return to the Lords on Monday.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, Mrs May said: “We have seen concerns raised about the role of Parliament in relation to the Brexit process.

“What I agreed yesterday is that as the Bill goes back to the Lords we would have further discussions with colleagues over those concerns.

“I have agreed this morning with the Brexit Secretary that we will bring forward an amendment in the Lords.”

Mrs May said her approach would be guided by the principle that “the Government’s hand in negotiations cannot be tied by Parliament, but we need to be accountable to Parliament”.

She said: “I cannot countenance Parliament being able to overturn the will of the British people: Parliament gave the decision to the British people, the British people voted to leave the European Union and as Prime Minister I’m determined to deliver that.”

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (PA)

Mrs May was responding to a question from Conservative arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said it was vital that any amendment preserved the separation between the roles of Government and Parliament.

Potential Tory rebels held back from a threatened revolt on Tuesday after a face-to-face meeting in which the Prime Minister was said to have offer “personal assurances” on concessions.

Minutes later, all but two of the Tory MPs voted with the Government to reject a Lords amendment that would have given Parliament the power to tell the PM to go back and renegotiate the Brexit deal she secures from Brussels.

And senior pro-EU Tory Dominic Grieve withdrew his own amendment, which would have given MPs powers to dictate what the Government should do if no acceptable agreement is reached by February 2019.

He said Mrs May had promised to table a fresh amendment based on his own proposal for Parliament to be consulted on the way forward if no deal is agreed by the end of November.

Downing Street was tight-lipped on the details of the proposed amendment, which was the subject of behind-the-scenes discussions on Wednesday.

Mr Grieve warned that if the Government failed to offer an adequate compromise, it would not be “the end of the matter”.

No government would survive if it tried to dispense with Parliament’s input, he said.

Remain-backing former minister Anna Soubry insisted that Mrs May had agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to discuss all elements of Mr Grieve’s amendment – including the measure to allow MPs to take control of the process if no Brexit deal is struck by February.

“If the PM goes back on that there will be no agreed amendment that I can support,” warned Ms Soubry.

Another Conservative Remainer, former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, denied that the rebels had been “played” by the Prime Minister.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “What was agreed was the Prime Minister understood that Parliament wants to have a real say, in all circumstances, in relation to what’s going to happen in the Brexit deal.

“It was the Prime Minister’s personal assurance that was very important to us, and she has given us that.”

She added: “I think there are a group of us who feel very strongly that Parliament must have a real say in all circumstances.”

Former minister Stephen Hammond, who was present at Tuesday’s meeting with Mrs May, said he “trusts entirely” the promises made by the PM.

But he told Sky News: “If those amendments don’t come forward, I and a number of others will consider voting against the Government.”

Mr Hammond insisted that there was no question of Parliament attempting to “scupper” the EU withdrawal process, adding: “No-one is suggesting that we are going to derail Brexit.”

Brexit Secretary David Davis has set out three tests that any new amendment has to meet:

– Not undermining negotiations;

– Not changing the constitutional role of Parliament and Government in negotiating international treaties; and

– Respecting the referendum result.

The Prime Minister was expected to emerge unscathed on Wednesday from a second day of crunch votes in the House of Commons on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

A potentially explosive clash over the customs union appears to have been defused by a compromise amendment.

And it is Labour’s leadership which is on the alert for rebellion among its MPs, after ordering them not to back proposals for a Norway-style agreement with the European Union.

- Press Association


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