UK's May defeats Brexit rebels, but divisions still reign

Clay Curtis
June 23, 2018

In dramatic scenes at Westminster, MPs were told shortly before the key vote an official ministerial statement will be issued on Thursday making clear it is ultimately for Speaker John Bercow to decide whether they get a "meaningful vote" on a no-deal withdrawal from the EU.

Thus, although the vote was still relatively close and Theresa May's leadership ability is constantly being questioned, the one advantage for her leadership is that there is one thing all Conservative MPs can agree on: they don't want to weaken the Prime Minister so much as to allow Mr Corbyn the opportunity of having a go at handling Brexit.

The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019 and negotiations have been taking place over the terms of its departure.

He seemed to have won over enough fellow Conservatives to put the minority government in danger of losing the vote.

Pro-EU legislators accuse the government of going back on its word.

The European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator wants the United Kingdom to have an "association agreement" with the EU.

Theresa May has seen off a Commons rebellion on her flagship Brexit bill after a last-minute concession to pro-EU MPs.

But Britain - and its government - remains divided over Brexit, and European Union leaders are frustrated with what they see as a lack of firm proposals from the U.K about future relations.

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The Lib Dems said the "so-called Tory rebels" had "lost their bottle and caved into yet another pathetic government compromise that isn't worth the paper it is written on", while SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the concession was a "fudge".

Usually, MPs who are too ill to attend parliamentary votes are "nodded through", a long-standing tradition which involves them being taken by auto, sometimes an ambulance, to the grounds of Parliament.

Francis Elliot, the political editor of The Times, reported seeing a sick MP being helped out of a vehicle and into the Houses of Parliament in order to take part in the vote.

"And in the circumstances that might follow a no deal, which would undoubtedly be one of the biggest political crises in modern British history, if the house wishes to speak. the house has the power to do it", Grieve said.

The news comes as Downing Street was heavily criticised for breaking with convention and refusing to nod through votes of sick MPs.

And former minister Stephen Hammond said: "Today the Government have in effect finally agreed that Parliament will have a meaningful vote in the event of no deal".

Speaking in the Commons, Dominic Grieve said the issue of the meaningful vote was about giving "assurances to the House and many, many people in the country who are anxious about this process and how it will end".

Amid what The Guardian describes as "a welter of procedural technicalities about the powers of MPs and the potential role of the judges", lead rebel Dominic Grieve withdrew his support for his own amendment after accepting Government reassurances about its respect for the power of MPs to hold it to account.

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