May to present amendment to EU withdrawal Bill

PM to set out course of action if final Brexit agreement rejected or talks end with no deal

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve:  there are three parts in the amendment he tabled. Photograph: AFP Photo/PRU

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve: there are three parts in the amendment he tabled. Photograph: AFP Photo/PRU


Theresa May’s government will table a new amendment to the EU withdrawal Bill on Thursday setting out what parliament can do if it rejects the final Brexit agreement or if negotiations end without a deal. Conservative rebels warned the prime minister on Wednesday against reneging on promises she made to avert defeat in a Commons vote on the issue earlier this week.

The rebels say Ms May promised to consider all three parts of an amendment tabled by former attorney general Dominic Grieve which would require the government to come to parliament for approval seven days after an agreement is concluded.

If there was no agreement by November 30th, the government would have to move a motion in the Commons, setting out how it intends to proceed and seeking the approval of the house for that course of action. And if there was no Brexit deal by February 15th, 2019, parliament could direct the government on how it should proceed with the negotiations.

A Downing Street source said on Wednesday that the third clause in Mr Grieve’s amendment, allowing parliament to direct negotiations if there was no deal, would not be included in the government’s amendment.

Anna Soubry, one of the leading Conservative rebels, said Downing Street appeared to be going back on what the prime minister promised.

‘Avoidance of doubt’

“For the avoidance of doubt, the PM said yesterday that clause C of Dominic Grieves amendment would be discussed as part of the new amendment to be tabled in the Lords. If the PM goes back on that there will be no agreed amendment that I can support,” she tweeted.

“And I have to add that whilst I believe the PM is a woman of her word I voted in favour of the Lords amendment because I feared she would not be able to deliver on her promise because she won’t see off the no-deal hard Brexiteers.”

As MPs continued debating amendments to the EU withdrawal Bill on Wednesday, former chancellor Ken Clarke said an amendment that passed without controversy on Tuesday night would effectively keep the UK in the single market after Brexit.

The amendment, proposed in the Lords by former EU commissioner Chris Patten, says that Brexit must not “create or facilitate Border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after exit day which feature physical infrastructure, including Border posts, or checks and controls, that did not exist before exit day and are not in accordance with an agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU”.

Irish Sea

Mr Clarke said the government had made a legally binding commitment to extend the needs of the Irish Border to the whole of the UK. 

“So we’re talking about Dover, and we settled that yesterday. We’re not having a border down the Irish Sea, so the United Kingdom has got to negotiate an arrangement with the EU as a whole that has no new frontier barriers. So effectively we are going to reproduce the customs union and the single market, and the government will not be able to comply with yesterday’s legal obligation unless it does so,” he said.

There was uproar in the Commons chamber earlier when all MPs from the Scottish National Party walked out after their leader Ian Blackford was suspended for a day when he refused to accept the speaker’s decision not to hold an emergency vote on the implications of the EU withdrawal Bill for the devolution settlement in Scotland.