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Tory rebels reject May’s Brexit compromise
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Tory rebels reject May’s Brexit compromise

The government’s compromise to avoid a Commons defeat on Brexit has been rejected as “unacceptable” by leading rebel Dominic Grieve.

Theresa May gave assurances to both sides of the Brexit divide in her party over how much say MPs would get on her final Brexit deal.

This convinced most rebels – who want MPs to have the final say – to back her in a key vote on Tuesday night.

But the wording of the government’s compromise has now been published.

And Mr Grieve, who had talks earlier on Thursday with ministers, said he did not accept the government’s proposal.

He told BBC News: “At the end of the process something was inexplicably changed, which had not been agreed.

“The government has made the motion unamendable, contrary to the usual methods of the House of Commons. And therefore it cannot be accepted.”

The government’s amendment sets out what must happen if the prime minister announces before 21 January 2019 that no deal has been reached with the EU either on the withdrawal agreement or the future relationship.

Under these circumstances, a minister must make a statement in Parliament within 14 days and give MPs an opportunity to vote.

However, the vote would be on “a motion in neutral terms”, merely stating that the House has considered the statement.

Mr Grieve had wanted the amendment to say that the government must seek the approval of Parliament for its course of action – and that ministers must be directed by MPs and peers.

What’s going on?

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and negotiations have been taking place on the terms of the separation and how the two sides will work together in the future.

The government is trying to pass a new law, called the EU Withdrawal Bill, which it says is needed to ensure a “smooth and orderly Brexit”.

Its main purposes are to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK, and transfer existing EU law into UK law so the same rules and regulations apply on the day after Brexit.

But as it passes through Parliament, MPs and peers have been trying to change it, in some cases adding bits on that would change the government’s Brexit strategy.

These include moves to give Parliament more of a say in the event that it votes to reject the deal stuck between the UK and the EU, or if no deal is reached at all.

Ministers say they cannot allow MPs to decide what happens next in these circumstances as it would bind their hands in negotiations.

But supporters of the move say it would enable Parliament to avoid an economically damaging outcome for the UK.

After the House of Lords changed the bill to give Parliament a more decisive say, MPs voted on Tuesday to reverse the move – but several pro-EU Tories say they held back from voting against the government because of promises they were made that their concerns would be listened to.

In the House of Commons, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer pressed Brexit Secretary David Davis on seemingly conflicting accounts of what the would-be rebels were offered.

Mr Davis would not be drawn on the details, saying the proposal would meet three criteria: that it does not overturn the referendum result, does not undermine negotiations and does not change the country’s constitutional structure which involves the government negotiating.

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