Backbench MPs led by #Dominic Grieve have inflicted a humiliating defeat on the government, in an effort to ensure parliament can seize control of what happens in the crucial days after Theresa May’s #Brexit deal is voted on.
While May was waiting to open five days of debate on her deal in the run-up to next week’s meaningful vote, MPs passed an amendment aimed at giving them more say over what happens next if she loses.
Crossbench MPs led by Grieve had tabled an amendment to the parliamentary motion setting out how the government’s Brexit deal would be debated over the coming days. It passed by 321 votes to 299, despite leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, urging colleagues not to press the issue.
Conservative rebels included several former loyalists, including May’s former first secretary of state Damian Green, the former defence secretary Michael Fallon, and Jo Johnson, who resigned as transport minister to call for a People’s Vote.
The amendment marked an extraordinary third defeat for the government in a single day, after ministers had earlier failed to see off a motion finding them in contempt of parliament.
With the prime minister’s challenge in winning next week’s vote looking all but insurmountable, MPs in the deeply divided Commons are increasingly concerned about what happens next.
Under the terms of the EU Withdrawal Act, the government will have 21 days to come back to parliament with a motion, setting out what it plans to do.
Grieve’s amendment, which is backed by the shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, is aimed at ensuring any such motion can be amended by MPs.
They hope this will allow parliament to express its support for alternative approaches – and prevent the government either hurtling towards a no-deal Brexit without the backing of MPs, or imposing a plan B of its own devising.
Defeat for the government looked all but certain all day, with more than a dozen Tory MPs publicly signed up to back the amendment, including Nick Boles, who is spearheading an attempt to promote a Norway-style Brexit deal.
The Labour backbencher Chris Leslie, who backed the amendment, said: “MPs are going to gradually assert their rights – including the right to instruct the government in future stages. It was always a nonsense that MPs, after the ‘meaningful vote’, would be somehow gagged from expressing a view. The Grieve amendment gives teeth back to the House of Commons so MPs can have some real bite.”