May dodges bullet after extraordinary Brexit Bill negotiation

Support came after rebel MPs relented just ahead of vote, in wake of justice minister’s resignation

Theresa May has escaped defeat in a crucial Brexit vote by promising to give parliament a more meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement and on leaving the European Union without a deal.

Conservative rebels agreed to support the government only after meeting the prime minister 10 minutes before the vote, when she agreed to propose new amendments to the EU withdrawal Bill.

The vote came hours after Phillip Lee unexpectedly resigned as a justice minister, saying he could not support Ms May's approach to Brexit and wanted to be able to vote against the government. And it followed an extraordinary, public negotiation on the floor of the House of Commons between ministers and former attorney general Dominic Grieve, a leading pro-European on the Conservative backbenches.

The government’s chief whip spent much of the three-hour debate shuttling between rebel MPs and ministers before ushering 14 backbench rebels out of the chamber for a last-ditch meeting with Ms May in her Commons office.


The prime minister warned her MPs ahead of the debate that a defeat for the government would undermine her in negotiations with the EU and Brexiteers accused the rebels of seeking to reverse the referendum decision to leave the EU.

‘At your peril’

The Daily Express warned on its front page on Tuesday that MPs would "ignore the will of the people at your peril" and the Sun said their choice was between "Great Britain or Great Betrayal".

Tory backbencher Anna Soubry said she was tired of listening to words of encouragement from MPs, ministers and business leaders who refused to go public about their concerns over Brexit, of the commentators who say to her, "'You're doing a great job. Keep on going', in the face of death threats which have meant that one of our number has had to attend a public engagement with six armed undercover police officers – that is the country that we have created and it has got to stop."