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UK government wins Brexit skirmish by making concessions

14 June 2018

The meaningful vote is probably the most unsafe of the Lords amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill - because it tees up an unpredictable vote on the final terms of Brexit, towards the end of this year, and opens up the possibility that MPs could demand that ministers change policy, in the event the terms were rejected by the House, or no deal was reached in the talks with the EU.... they could even demand (drumroll) a second referendum...

On Tuesday, parliament may vote on other amendments, including a challenge to the government's plan to put March 29, 2019, or "Brexit Day", into law and an attempt to toughen a pledge to ensure a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which will remain in the EU.

Pro-EU Conservatives have signalled they remain ready to rebel on Theresa May's flagship Brexit Bill if she fails to deliver a truly meaningful vote for MPs on the divorce settlement.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland intervened four times during a speech by the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, whose amendment would effectively give MPs a veto on the government's negotiating agenda if a deal isn't done by the end of November.

The Prime Minister is now expected to get through the latest round of crunch Brexit votes unscathed, with a potentially explosive clash over the customs union already defused by a compromise amendment.

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However, her concession to "seek to negotiate" a "customs arrangement" with the European Union was enough to placate Conservative MPs who were threatening to rebel. As ever, Delano will keep you posted. MPs will vote on this particular amendment this afternoon.

So it's worth remembering that while the government didn't lose any votes yesterday, Mrs May was forced into some embarrassing climb-downs that could come back to haunt her.

Some lawmakers say this is what they were promised; the government is less clear and has made statements apparently to the contrary. The government earlier had said it would not support that amendment. They should find an agreement by the end of the week before the bill returns to the House of Lords.

The House of Commons voted by a wide margin against a call to join the European Economic Area - a club that includes the EU nations and Norway - after Conservative and opposition Labour leaderships opposed it.

If it had been accepted the amendment would have given the lower chamber, the House of Commons, a "meaningful vote" on any deal agreed with Brussels before Britain leaves the European Union in March next year. As happened yesterday, MPs, including from the government, can propose amendments to the Lords' amendments too.

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"That is why I will be voting for my frontbench's amendment but also the Lords' amendment too".

Ukip leader Gerard Batten said: "The only "meaningful vote" was the verdict of the people in referendum of June 23 2016". Brexit supporters will be watching closely to see what concessions the government finally offers to the rebels.

Pro-EU Tories held back from rebellion after ministers indicated they were ready to discuss changes requiring the UK Government to seek parliamentary approval for its approach if the Commons rejects a deal this autumn.

"The decision was taken by the people, we gave them that decision and we have to stand by it", said Conservative MP Bill Cash.

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UK government wins Brexit skirmish by making concessions