LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly avoided a major blow to her Brexit strategy Tuesday after MPs rejected a plan that would have given parliament a veto on the final deal negotiated with Brussels.
The House of Commons voted 324 to 298 to defeat an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which would have removed her government’s power to unilaterally walk away from talks with Brussels.
But in extraordinary scenes, ministers were forced to offer last-minute compromises to pro-European MPs before holding private talks in corners of the chamber as the debate raged on.
May had feared a rebellion by her Conservative MPs over the motion, one of 15 submitted by the unelected upper House of Lords on which lawmakers will vote over the coming two days.
The bill will then go back to the Lords on Monday.
The pro-European cause was boosted when junior justice minister Phillip Lee, a close personal friend of the prime minister, resigned shortly before the debate in order to back the veto amendment. May is seeking to overturn 14 of 15 amendments passed by the Lords earlier this year, but has a fight on her hands due to her fragile majority in the 650-seat Commons.
She has already agreed to give MPs a vote on the final Brexit deal, but says it will be a yes or no decision — meaning that rejecting it could see Britain crash out of the EU.
The Lords amendment would have given parliament the power to decide what happened next, with the possibility of going back to the negotiating table or even staying in the bloc.
Following its defeat, the government’s own amendment on the so-called meaningful vote will go forward to the House of Lords for debate next week — but with some changes.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018