Diehard Conservative Remainers yesterday threatened to team up with Labour to force ministers to give MPs a veto on the final Brexit deal.
Remain-supporting MPs geared up for an autumn of guerilla warfare by tabling a blizzard of amendments to the Government’s legislation.
Within hours of the flagship EU Withdrawal Bill clearing its first parliamentary hurdle yesterday, 59 pages of amendments were put down by critics of Brexit.
Ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve says he’s prepared to side against the government with Labour after tabling 16 amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill
Ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve, who has emerged as a key figure among Tory rebels, said he was prepared to join with Labour to defeat the Government unless ministers made a string of concessions.
Mr Grieve said the Government appeared to be in ‘listening’ mode. But he added: ‘If it doesn’t [listen] then it risks being defeated in the House of Commons. I think that has to be a real possibility.’
He insisted he accepted the referendum result, but added: ‘I believe leaving the EU is a great and historic mistake.’
Mr Grieve, who tabled 16 amendments to the Bill, said the new legislation ‘puts far too much power in the hands of the executive’ and MPs would now ‘go through it with a fine-tooth comb’.
His amendments include a proposal backed by nine Tory MPs that would require the Government to hold a binding vote on the Brexit deal before it was agreed.
Some MPs hope the move could force Theresa May back to the negotiating table, but it could also see Britain crash out of the EU without a deal.
Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg says the Tory rebels are trying to frustrate Brexit and pointed out the government has already offered a vote on the deal
Eurosceptic Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg last night accused rebels in his party of trying to frustrate the process. He said: ‘The Government has already promised there will be a vote on the deal. Putting it into legislation risks creating a procedural log-jam if not outright chaos if the divorce deal is signed near the deadline.
‘It appears to be a last gasp effort by the Remainers to keep us in the EU. But this would also in theory allow Eurosceptics who think no deal is better than a bad deal to vote down the agreement.’
Labour also tabled a string of amendments which would tie the Government’s hands during the negotiations on Britain’s EU exit.
Jeremy Corbyn put forward proposals to allow MPs to determine the duration of any transitional deal.
Phillip Hammond says a transitional deal will look a lot like the status quo, indicating he’s pushing to keep the UK in the customs union
With Labour also calling for the UK to stay in the single market and customs union during any transition, this could allow pro-Remain MPs to permanently keep Britain in the EU in all but name.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer said that the ‘flawed Bill’ would require ‘extensive amendment and improvement in a whole range of areas’. He added: ‘This is likely to cause delays and division in Parliament, and the Prime Minister has nobody to blame but herself.’
Pro-Remain MPs also put forward plans that would require the UK to stay in the customs union indefinitely, even though this would mean the permanent continuation of free movement.
And the Liberal Democrats are seeking to force a vote that would require the Government to hold a second referendum before leaving the EU.
Philip Hammond yesterday said a transitional deal to smooth the path to Brexit would look ‘a lot like the status quo’. The Chancellor indicated that he was pushing for an arrangement that will keep the UK in the customs union in all but name as we leave the European Union.
Ministers have agreed to pursue a transition lasting up to three years to give businesses and the Government more time to prepare.
Mr Hammond told peers ‘not everything’ would be ready in time for the expected exit date in March 2019, with customs facing a ‘very challenging’ race to implement new systems.
Asked if he was confident the capacity of UK ports was adequate to deal with additional inspections, Mr Hammond said: ‘No, it is clearly not.’
The EU Withdrawal Bill repeals the European Communities Act 1972, which enshrines the supremacy of EU law. It also transfers thousands of existing EU regulations into British law in order to smooth the path to Brexit.