Theresa May sees off the Brexit rebels: After Grieve backs down, PM calls for unity to get the best deal for Britain
- Theresa May faced a nail-biting vote on the government’s flagship Brexit Bill
- Tories threatened revolt on amendment calling for ‘meaningful vote’ on EU talks
- Ringleader Dominic Grieve caved in this afternoon after limited concessions
- Tory whips were accused of deploying ‘dark arts’ on MPs to head off defeat
- Labour accused government of forcing sick MPs to go through division lobbies
Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation was on course to become law last night, after rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve capitulated to the Government.
A threatened Tory rebellion collapsed amid acrimony when Mr Grieve announced he would be voting against his own amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
His decision infuriated Labour, which had wheeled in sick MPs in the hope of inflicting a defeat on the government.
But it also split Mr Grieve’s gang of diehard Tory Remainers, allowing the Prime Minister to win the vital vote by 319 to 303.
Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation was on course to become law last night, after rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve capitulated to the Government
The Government won 319 to 303 to defeat a potentially explosive amendment that would have allowed the Commons to overrule the PM on a no deal Brexit
Last night the Bill cleared the Lords after pro-Remain peers finally gave up their attempts to wreck it.
Former Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis, who has led attempts to derail Brexit, threw in the towel, saying: ‘We have suffered an unmitigated defeat.’
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Mrs May meanwhile urged warring Tories to now come together and fight for the best possible Brexit deal.
Speaking at the Policy Exchange think-tank last night, she said: ‘Now, with the Withdrawal Bill on its way to the statute book, it is time to unite as a county and a party to get the very best Brexit deal for Britain.
Theresa May (pictured at PMQs today) won the crucial Brexit Bill vote in the Commons tonight after Tory rebels dramatically backed down
The victory came after rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve (pictured in the Commons today) effectively caved in following hours of frantic negotiations with ministers
Opening the Commons debate this afternoon, Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted the commitment gave MPs a say without risking ‘a situation in which parliament can instruct the Government how to proceed’
Labour MP Wes Streeting was scathing about Mr Grieve, suggesting he had marched the rebels to the top of the hill and then retreated
‘More people voted to leave the European Union than have ever voted for anything else in our history.
What happens now the meaningful vote row is over?
What happens now?
The Brexit Bill will briefly return to the House of Lords tonight for what is expected to be the final time. Peers must agree to the changes made by MPs this afternoon.
This will end ‘ping pong’ on the legislation – where it is passed back and forth between the House of Commons and House of Lords – after weeks of acrimony and allow it to be sent to the Queen and formally made law.
What did the Government promise?
Theresa May has agreed to demands that MPs and peers are given a vote if no deal is reached by 21 January next year.
There will also be a vote if the Prime Minister wants to abandon talks because there is not a good deal on offer.
Each vote will be held on a motion – the question put to MPs – stating only that MPs have considered the issue.
Why did Dominic Grieve back down?
The final fight was over whether MPs should be allowed to re-write the meaningful vote motion – a demand most of the Tory rebels, including ringleader Dominic Grieve gave up on today.
They were reassured by the Government saying Commons Speaker John Bercow has the final say on whether a motion can be changed or not.
Ministers also said they are powerless to stop MPs bringing their own motions that are critical of Brexit being put to MPs – even though these are not legally binding.
What has John Bercow got to do with it?
Rebels were furious last week when the Government compromise appeared to end their hopes of re-writing the meaningful vote motion.
To reassure them today, ministers issued a statement reiterating the rules of the House of Commons that say ultimately only the Speaker makes that decision.
In reality this is only a technical point as the Speaker is obliged to ban amendments on certain amendments. The meaningful vote motion has to be ‘neutral’, which falls into this category.
Why did MPs and peers demand a meaningful vote?
Tory rebels have fought for weeks to insist Parliament is sovereign and should be given a say if the negotiations fail.
Dominic Grieve tabled his own amendment to the Brexit Bill enshrining this in law last week. But he was convinced to pull it at the eleventh hour after assurances by ministers that they would address his concerns.
After claiming the Government reneged on its promises, he had another amendment today – but climbed down after new promises, insisting sovereignty of Parliament was now being recognised.
‘Nothing would hurt our democracy more than to give the people a choice and then not to trust their judgment when they give it.
‘By honouring that decision, we are showing that in the United Kingdom, the Mother of Parliaments, when the people speak their voices are heard.’
After weeks of threats and high stakes negotiations, just six Tory MPs sided with Labour against the government – former ministers Kenneth Clarke, Anna Soubry and Phillip Lee, and backbenchers Heidi Allen, Antoinette Sandbach and Sarah Wollaston.
Mr Grieve, working in tandem with pro-Remain peers in the Lords, had been demanding a veto for MPs over any attempt to leave the EU without a deal.
Brexit Secretary David Davis told MPs the proposal ‘could be used to overturn the result of the referendum’.
Speaking ahead of the vote, he insisted the whips would fail in picking off the rebels.
But he capitulated after Mr Davis offered a ‘concession’ viewed by most at Westminster as ‘meaningless’.
In theory, the concession would allow Speaker John Bercow to rule on whether MPs could attach amendments to the vote on no deal – potentially allowing them to direct the government.
But Commons sources said this was simply a restating of the existing rules.
Mr Grieve said he considered Brexit a ‘historic mistake’.
But he said he could not ‘entirely ignore’ warnings that his proposal could undermine the UK’s negotiations with Brussels.
To cries of ‘shame’ from the Labour benches, the former attorney general then announced he would no longer be voting for his own amendment.
Mr Grieve’s decision raises questions about future co-operation between the rebel Tory faction and the opposition.
Miss Sandbach said she would stick by the rebel amendment to provide a means of avoiding ‘catastrophe’ if negotiations with Brussels break down.
At one point a sick Labour MP was steered through the Commons voting lobby in a wheelchair after Tory whips tore up parliamentary conventions that allow ill MPs to have their votes counted without them being present.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah was seen carrying a hospital sick bucket yesterday afternoon in order to vote.
Sources described the whips’ decision as ‘unacceptable’ and hinted the government could face reprisals.
Tory whips also refused to let heavily pregnant MPs Laura Pidcock and Jo Swinson skip the vote.
Veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash welcomed the passage of the legislation, which will end the supremacy of EU law after Brexit.
He described yesterday’s events as ‘a victory for common sense and the national interest’.
Brexit Secretary David Davis has circulated a letter (pictured) which was designed to buy off Conservative rebels
Mr Davis urged MPs to accept that the Brexit Bill now had to complete its passage through the Houses of Parliament
Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper expressed bewilderment at what had been agreed between the government and Mr Grieve
Bradford MP Naz Shah (circled) was seen being wheeled through the Commons chamber as the vote was held, apparently with a paper sick bag on her lap
The Tory and Labour MPs who defied their own leaders
Six Tories rebelled to back the ‘meaningful vote’ amendment:
Four Labour MPs rebelled to support the government against the motion:
The House of Lords (pictured on Monday night) voted by a huge margin to back an amendment handing Parliament a say over negotiations if no deal is signed by late January next year
Theresa May (pictured leaving Downing Street today) is facing a nail-biting vote on the government’s flagship Brexit Bill later
Sick MPs are wheeled into the Commons from HOSPITAL alongside a heavily pregnant woman for crunch Brexit vote as ‘Tory whips refuse to allow them to be ‘nodded through”
Two sick Labour MPs were made to turn up to the Commons in wheelchairs today for a crunch Commons vote after Tory whips allegedly stopped them being ‘nodded through’.
Naz Shah, the MP for Bradford West, was released from hospital and wheeled through the division lobbies clutching a sick bucket for the vote.
While another Labour MP was also wheeled through to cast their ballot in a vote on whether Parliament should be given a ‘meaningful vote’ if no Brexit deal is done.
Labour blamed Tory whips for making ill MPs physically turn up to vote rather than allowing them to be ‘nodded through’ in a more comfortable part of the estate.
The Tories deny the claims.
John Prescott, the ex deputy PM and Labour peer, accused Tory whips of an ‘absolutely bloody shameful’ display.
Naz Shah, the MP for Bradford West (pictured in the wheelchair today) was released from hospital and wheeled through the division lobbies clutching a sick bucket for the vote.
The former Labour deputy leader said party chefs should never force sick people to physically vote in the division lobbies
Lord Prescott, the former deputy PM – tore into Tory whips for making the MPs physically troop through the division lobbies despite their ill health
He said on Twitter: ‘In all my years in Parliament – even in the 1970s – I have NEVER seen this. This is absolutely bloody shameful.
‘I trust Labour MPs will be disgusted by these desperate and heartless Tory tactics, vote against the Government and back the meaningful vote.’
He added: ‘The Tory whips are forcing sick people to do this. Lower than vermin.’
Ms Pidcock, the heavily pregnant Labour MP, also had to march through the division lobbies with her hundreds of colleagues.
A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn confirmed the Government was obstructing sick MPs.
He said: ‘As I understand it there has been a refusal to pass through people who are not in a state to vote in the normal way.
‘And that’s obviously unacceptable.’
Meanwhile, heavily pregnant shadow minister Cat Smith, who is just days from her due date, had to miss the vote after she was taken to hospital after a ‘scare’ and has been advised not to travel.
Ms Smith is one of three MPs on the Opposition benches who are in the latter stages of pregnancy. Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson also turned up to vote.
Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson (pictured right)and . Labour’s Laura Pidcock (pictured left in the Commons last month) also voted despite being heavily pregnant
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