Tory rebels today angrily denied toasting Theresa May’s humiliating Brexit Bill defeat with champagne today.
As Conservative divisions threatened to spiral out of control, former minister Anna Soubry was heckled in the Commons over allegedly celebrating the PM’s setback.
Meanwhile, David Davis warned the rebels they had ‘compressed the timetable’ for Brexit by forcing through an amendment to the flagship EU Withdrawal Bill.
Eleven Conservative MPs last night voted to give the Commons a ‘meaningful’ vote over any Brexit agreement with the EU, despite government pleas to let ministers retain control.
The shock result sparked a furious war of words between the rebels and Brexiteers, with one MP even calling for colleagues to be deselected for undermining the PM’s negotiating position.
As Mrs May prepares to head for a crucial EU summit later, the European parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt waded into the row by mocking the Vote Leave referendum slogan, saying the Commons had ‘taken back control’.
Answering questions in the Commons this morning, Brexit Secretary Mr Davis refused to rule out trying to reverse the setback later in the legislative process.
‘We will have to decide how we respond to it,’ he said.
Former minister Anna Soubry angrily denied heckles in the Commons today over allegedly celebrating the PM’s setback
David Davis warned the rebels they had ‘compressed the timetable’ for Brexit by forcing through an amendment to the flagship EU Withdrawal Bill
As Ms Soubry told the chamber that no rebels had taken any ‘pleasure’ in the stinging result, an MP on the Tory benches heckled about them ‘drinking champagne’.
A cleary furious Ms Soubry shot back: ‘Nobody drank champagne on these benches.’
The government was defeated by a margin of four votes, losing 309 to 305 and Labour MPs joined the rebels in cheering and applauding as the extraordinary result was announced last night.
Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, hit back and said: ‘The Tory rebels have put a spring in Labour’s step, given them a taste of winning.
‘They have guaranteed the party a weekend of bad press, undermined the PM and devalued her impact in Brussels.
‘They should be deselected and never allowed to stand as a Tory MP, ever again.’
Theresa May (pictured on the red carpet at the Sun Military Awards minutes after last night’s defeat) has vowed to press on with her Brexit legislation
A rebellion of Conservative MPs secured a crunch Commons vote 309 to 305 – handing Mrs May her first ever legislative defeat by just four votes in an historic blow to her already shaky credibility (pictured is the vote being declared last night)
The EU parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt gloated about the bloody nose suffered by Mrs May
To compound her difficulties, Mrs May faces another crucial vote in the Commons next week over fixing the Brexit date in law of March 29, 2019.
And on Wednesday, Mrs May left Westminster and was on the red carpet at the Sun’s ‘Military Awards’ minutes after the humiliating defeat. Today she will head to Brussels for a European Council meeting.
WHAT DOES THE RESULT MEAN?
Ministers had proposed that Parliament could have a ‘take it or leave it’ vote on Theresa May’s final Brexit deal with Brussels.
If they rejected it, Britain would leave with no deal.
But rebels feared the vote would come too late to give them a ‘meaningful’ say on the shape of Brexit.
Now, as result of last night’s vote, MPs and peers have the opportunity to amend any deal and in theory force Mrs May back to the negotiating table.
Rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve rejected as ‘too late’ a desperate last minute concession made by ministers just moments before the crunch vote at 7pm.
Mr Grieve’s amendment demands ministers pass a full law enshrining the exit deal before the Government is allowed start implementing it.
It puts huge new pressure on the Brexit timetable approaching exit day on March 29, 2019.
Rebels hope it will allow Parliament to reject anything they consider a bad deal for Britain in time for further negotiation.
A furious Mrs May quickly sacked former minister Stephen Hammond from his role as Tory vice-chairman after he joined the revolt.
But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt played down the impact today, insisting the Brexit process would not be derailed.
‘I don’t think it should be a surprise that in a hung Parliament, Parliament wants to reassert its right to scrutinise the process,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘But we should also be clear this isn’t going to slow down Brexit, it’s not going to stop Brexit.’
Asked whether MPs now had the power to force the Government back to the negotiating table, Mr Hunt said: ‘Parliament can say whatever it wants but of course renegotiation is something that involves two parties.’
Labour MPs bunched the air in jubilation and Remain MPs across the Commons cheered and applauded as the extraordinary vote was announced (pictured)
Minister have also hinted they could try to overturn the result at a later stage in the legislation.
As the rebellion built, Justice Minister Dominic Raab offered last ditch assurances that powers in the legislation that trouble Tory rebels will not be used until the exit agreement is written into UK law.
ELEVEN TORY REBELS ENOUGH TO DEFEAT MAY
Eleven Conservative MPs were enough to defeat Theresa May – despite her concession winning over three others moments before the vote.
The 11 rebels were:
A 12th Tory in the aye lobby was John Stevenson who voted both ways – an active abstention
At 6.45pm he returned to the Despatch Box to promise MPs he would turn his assurance into an amendment if MPs back down.
His concession appeared to peal off at least two Tory rebels as Vicky Ford and Paul Masterton backed down.
Two Labour MPs – Frank Field and Kate Hoey – voted with the Government.
But after Mr Grieve declared ‘It’s too late, I’m sorry, you cannot treat the House in this fashion’ other rebels inflicted the punishing defeat.
Insisting the rebellion would go ahead this afternoon, Mr Grieve quoted Winston Churchill as warned Mrs May: ‘A good party man…will put his country before his party.’
After the vote, a Government spokesman said: ‘We are disappointed that Parliament has voted for this amendment despite the strong assurances that we have set out.
‘We are as clear as ever that this Bill, and the powers within it, are essential.
‘This amendment does not prevent us from preparing our statute book for exit day. We will now determine whether further changes are needed to the Bill to ensure it fulfils its vital purpose.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded it a ‘a humiliating loss of authority for the Government on the eve of the European Council meeting’.
Justice minister Dominic Raab (pictured) offered assurances that powers in the bill that trouble Tory rebels will not be used until the exit agreement is written into UK law
The debate saw furious blue-on-blue exchanges as Brexiteers Bernard Jenkin and Bill Cash rose to defend the Government.
Mr Grieve warned the Government he had tried to be helpful but that on the issue of a meaningful vote ‘we have run out of road – and all rational discourse starts to evaporate’.
He said this has led to ‘confrontation’ in which it is ‘suggested the underlying purpose is sabotage, followed by hurling of public abuse’ including by other Tories.
Signalling support for the amendment, Mr Clarke said the key thing around a meaningful vote was its timing, adding: ‘The vote’s got to take place before the British Government has committed itself to the terms of the treaty-like agreement that is entered into with the other members.
‘Any other vote is not meaningful.’
Mr Clarke said it was ‘quite obvious’ that the Government was not going to be ‘remotely near’ a detailed agreement by March 2019.
He added: ‘It’s not a question, I may say, to my desperately paranoid eurosceptic friends, that somehow I am trying in some surreptitious Remainer way to put a spoke in the wheels of the vast progress of the United Kingdom towards the destination to which we are going.
‘But they don’t know what Leave means, because nobody discussed what Leave meant when we were having the referendum.’
Brexiteer Nadine Dorries reacted furiously to the vote, demanding the rebels be ‘deselected’
Another rebel, Antoinette Sandbach, expressed fears that a vote on a Brexit deal motion outlined by the Government could be ‘meaningless’.
In an attempt to sooth rebel concerns, Mr Raab vowed powers they want to modify – that allow ministers to bring in the exit agreement using secondary legislation – would not be used until Parliament has voted on the deal as a whole.
Offering a political assurance – rather than a change to the bill – Mr Raab said: ‘None of the Statutory Instruments will come into effect until Parliament has voted on the final deal.’
He urged the rebels to drop their amendment, adding: ‘If we waited for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill not just to be introduced after the withdrawal agreement has been signed, but fully enacted, waiting for the full passage of that to happen we would not have the time deal with the volume of technical legislation that we need to put through under secondary legislation.
‘There is no getting around the timing issue, we have got the long tail of technical regulatory secondary legislation we need to get through if we want to provide legal certainty that will make a smooth Brexit.’
Pictured are Tory MPs – including many of the rebels – in the Commons on Wednesday afternoon
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May said: ‘We will put the final withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.’
She said Westminster would be given a vote ahead of the European Parliament and ‘well before’ the date of Brexit in March 2019.
WHIP FACES BULLYING ROW OVER CLAIM MP WAS REDUCED TO TEARS
Tory chief whip Julian Smith (pictured outside No 10 last month) has reportedly told backbenchers they could be sued
Ministers have been hit by a bullying row after a Tory whip allegedly reduced a female MP to tears as they scrambled to try to head off a Brexit rebellion tonight.
A male whip is said to have used ‘bully boy tactics’ to try to cajole the MP into not defying the Government on a crunch Brexit vote.
The woman is said to have started crying and trembling after receiving the harsh dressing down – a claim No10 have said is ‘categorically not true’.
But another report says the chief whip Julian Smith has threatened to sue rebels if they make defamatory allegations about the tactics used to keep them in line.
The claims have surfaced as tensions soar ahead of an expected Tory rebellion tonight on the flagship Brexit Bill demanding MPs are given a meaningful vote on the deal.
It would be Theresa May’s first proper defeat on a piece of legislation and a major blow for the PM ahead of a major EU summit in Brussels tomorrow.
Anna Soubry, a leading Tory rebel, accused a Tory whip of overstepping the mark and resorting to bullying to strong-arm MPs into toeing the line.
‘To be clear, the final deal will be agreed before we leave and Honourable and Right Honourable Members will get a vote on it,’ Mrs May told the Commons.
Answering later questions, Mrs May said the Grieve amendment could risk a ‘smooth and orderly Brexit’ by squeezing the timetable too far.
Former constitution minister John Penrose offered support to Mrs May ahead of the vote.
He said: ‘The Government has already promised not only a full-scale vote on the EU deal as soon as it’s been struck, but up to two more ‘ratification votes’ plus an entire Act of Parliament before it becomes law.
‘That’s as much, or more, than even the most fervent democrat could reasonably ask.
‘The Prime Minister negotiated a far better ”stage 1” deal last week than the doom-mongers were predicting.
‘Let’s not repay her by sending her off to Brussels with an unnecessary and unfair amendment that will only make her job harder.’
In an attempt to head off defeat, Brexit Secretary David Davis has written to MPs insisting there will be a vote in the Commons on the term of the exit arrangements but that the amendment goes too far.
The Brexit Department today repeated a promise there would be a Commons vote on the exit deal before it is implemented.
The Government has also promised to enshrine a withdrawal treaty in law but said this might not happen before exit day.
But Mr Grieve told Sky News: ‘I have no desire to defeat my government at all, I am not a rebel, I think I have only rebelled once over a local issue in the 21 years I have been in parliament.
‘I don’t want to do that but the Government needs to listen to what has been said to them and at the moment unfortunately my impression of the last few days when I have been talking to the Government is it seems to be a bit of a dialogue of the deaf.
‘They have sort of turned this into a battle of wills and this is a completely pointless exercise.
‘They need to listen to the point that is being made and they need to respond to it.’
Junior Brexit minister Steve Baker told peers this morning: ‘There can only be a vote on the withdrawal agreement.’
He said the vote on whether to follow the instruction of the referendum and leave the EU has already happened when MPs backed invoking Article 50.
And he tweeted: ‘Today’s amendment 7 to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is misplaced, however well-intentioned.’
In a letter to MPs, Brexit Secretary Davis specifically referred to Mr Grieve’s attempt to rewrite the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and said he was responding to concerns ‘by making clear that there will be a number of votes for Parliament on the final deal we strike with the EU’.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier wants the withdrawal deal finalised by October 2018 and the Government has committed to hold a vote in Parliament as soon as possible after the negotiations have concluded.
Mr Davis said the deal would have to go through the normal treaty ratification process and there would then be primary legislation on the Brexit deal.
The Brexit Secretary said: ‘If Parliament supports the resolution to proceed with the withdrawal agreement and the terms for our future relationship, the Government will bring forward a Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill to give the withdrawal agreement domestic legal effect.
‘The Bill will implement the terms of the withdrawal agreement in UK law as well as providing a further opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny.
‘This legislation will be introduced before the UK exits the EU and the substantive provisions will only take effect from the moment of exit.’
The Government swerved possible defeat last night with concessions on so-called Henry VIII powers in the legislation.
And another very tight vote is expected next Wednesday as ministers stand behind controversial plans to write the Exit Date into the withdrawal legislation.
Yesterday, Conservative former leader Iain Duncan Smith accused Mr Grieve and his supporters of ‘grandstanding’ and trying to tie the Government’s hands in the Brexit talks.
‘I think this is looking for ways to derail the bill,’ he told The World At One.
‘There comes a moment when really grandstanding has to stop. Tying the Government’s hands in the way that he would wish to tie them so early on is quite wrong.’