Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Government avoids EU Withdrawal Bill defeat after last-ditch deal on 'meaningful vote'

Government avoids EU Withdrawal Bill defeat after last-ditch deal on 'meaningful vote'

Talks will now be held between ministers and Tory MPs uneasy with the government's handling of Brexit, in the hope of reaching an agreement before the legislation is passed back to the House of Lords. That supposedly, according to BBC's Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg, drew a colorful response from a pro-EU Tory rebel: "If she f**ks us, she's f**ked".

But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, a leading Brexit backer, said the concessions could "come back to haunt" the government if they amounted to a veto over the terms of the UK's departure. "We will now work with the government to get acceptable amendments tabled in the Lords to address this".

The European Union Withdrawal Bill, a complex piece of legislation meant to disentangle Britain from four decades of EU rules and regulations, has had a rocky ride through Parliament.

Crucially, ministers have conceded that if MPs vote down the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels, that will not result in the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union with no deal - a scenario that few MPs would countenance because of the significant economic damage it would entail.

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The shock move came as the Prime Minister warned senior ministers in her Cabinet that defeat on a series of Lords amendments over the next two days would undermine the Government and make negotiations with Brussels harder.

"She said that anything which undermines the government at home would make the negotiations with the European Union more hard".

The current "meaningful vote" offered by the Government allows MPs to accept or reject the Brexit deal, but the proposed change would see MPs take control of the negotiation aims. May's preferred approach is temporarily keeping the U.K.in some form of temporary customs union with the E.U., but this is unacceptable to hardline Brexiteers in her party.

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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Those developments are likely to lower expectations of a Bank of England interest rate rise in August, given the central bank has said it wants to see more wage pressures before it increases borrowing costs. "There could be a confidence motion [in the prime minister] or an early general election".

During a frantic day of discussions between ministers and Conservative backbenchers, potential rebels were eventually persuaded to back down when Solicitor General Robert Buckland told MPs that ministers were willing to "engage positively" with their concerns. Philip Lee said a choice between "bad and worse" options was not giving MPs a meaningful vote. May's been resisting the demand because she doesn't want her hands to be tied during the talks.

Conservative lawmaker Phillip Lee, who voted in Britain's 2016 referendum to remain in the European Union, resigned as a justice minister so he could vote against the government on a measure that would give Parliament more power over the terms of the break.

Bill revokes the 1972 Act which took the United Kingdom into the European Economic Area, but also transposes all relevant EU law into British statute so there are no holes in the law book at the point of Brexit.

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Labour's Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said that the only reason May's government had decided on a climb down was because 'they thought they were going to lose the vote'.

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