Thursday, May 26

PM May makes eleventh hour concession over Brexit scrutiny


 

 

Conservative party conference Theresa May has made “one hell of a climbdown” in a bid to prevent a Tory rebellion over her Brexit strategy.

The Prime Minister accepted a call to ensure Parliament can properly scrutinise the plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked, which is likely to take place before March 2017.

Labour will make the call for scrutiny during an Opposition Day motion in the House of Commons on Wednesday (12 October).

But May has tabled an amendment accepting closer inspection, as long as it does not undermine the negotiating position of the government as negotiations are entered into.

The prime minister’s move comes amid increasing cross-party pressure for lawmakers to be given a vote on the Brexit strategy before Article 50 is triggered, setting formal divorce proceedings in motion. A number of lawmakers are concerned over indications that Britain is quitting the single market.

The Conservative leader faced backlash after previously refusing to give MPs a Brexit vote as it would “second-guess the will of the British people.” She was accused of adopting a “fundamentally undemocratic, unconstitutional” approach to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

The prime minister’s apparent retreat was hailed by a Labour source, who told the Daily Mirror: “Given their position was they didn’t think Parliament should have any role [this] is one hell of a climbdown.

“It’s clear they were in real trouble and didn’t have the votes to defeat it,” the unidentified source added. “The government are clearly, rightfully, very worried.”

Theresa May Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the move, saying: “This is a real victory for Parliament and will help ensure there is proper democratic grip of the Brexit process.

“Labour have argued that Parliament must have a say on the basic terms of the Brexit negotiations before Article 50 is triggered – not to frustrate the referendum result, but to ensure that there is rigour and accountability on this vital issue.

“The government’s eleventh hour concession on that point is overdue, but greatly welcome,” he added.

The amendment makes it more likely for either a Green Paper or negotiating strategy to be presented to the Commons. A Number 10 source said: “The government is focused on delivering on Brexit. We have always been clear that Parliament has an important role to play, and this motion reflects that.”

Senior Tory MP and chair of the Conservative Group for Europe, Neil Carmichael, said: “[The amendment] is a step in the right direction.

“Our group would support the Opposition Day motion with the amendment,” he added. “Wednesday’s debate will be an interesting one.”

The non-binding motion reads: “This House recognises that leaving the EU is the defining issue facing the UK; believes that there should be a full and transparent debate on the government’s plan for leaving the EU; and calls on the prime minister to ensure that this House is able properly to scrutinise that plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked.”