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Timeline: Why is Theresa May facing a Brexit rebellion on the EU Withdrawal Bill?

BayRadio | June 18, 2018

Theresa May is facing a rebellion on key Brexit legislation by pro-EU Tory MPs – but how did she end up here?

30 April   Amendment to EU Withdrawal Bill passed in House of Lords

An amendment tabled to the EU Withdrawal Bill by Tory peer Viscount Hailsham is backed by 335 votes to 244 in the House of Lords.

The new clause to the key Brexit legislation says the UK’s exit deal must be approved in a “meaningful vote” by MPs.

It also sets out specific deadlines for the government to reach an agreement with Brussels.

If these are missed, the amendment says ministers “must follow any direction” approved by MPs, thereby allowing the House of Commons to take control of the Brexit process.

Crossbench peer Lord Bilimoria tells the House of Lords: “This amendment will give MPs and this House the power to stand up, to do the right thing for the country… parliament, thanks to this amendment, will have the ability to stop the train crash that is Brexit.”

12 June   Tory backbencher tables alternative amendment in House of Commons

In a bid to break the deadlock between the government and Tory rebels, who want to back the peers’ “meaningful vote” amendment, Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve tables his own amendment in lieu of the House of Lords proposal.

However, the former attorney general does not push his amendment to a vote when the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the House of Commons.

This is after Solicitor General Robert Buckland tells MPs that ministers are willing to “engage positively” with the concerns of potential Tory rebels.

Prime Minister Theresa May also holds a last-ditch meeting with pro-EU Conservative backbenchers in her parliamentary office, to offer them personal assurances as she seeks to avoid a rebellion.

Subsequently, the House of Commons rejects Viscount Hailsham’s original amendment by 324 votes to 298.

Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry are the only Tory MPs to vote in favour of keeping the amendment.

Yet, the government later ruffles feathers by issuing a statement insisting it will not allow MPs to tie its hands in Brexit negotiations, which prompts questions about what ministers actually agreed to concede on.

13 June   Downing Street backtracks on concession

The concerns about a broken promise among Tory rebels are raised further when Downing Street says it is “a fair assessment” to say a key part of Mr Grieve’s amendment is not up for discussion.

Clause C called on the government to cede control of the Brexit process to MPs if there is no UK-EU withdrawal agreement by 15 February 2019.

Ms Soubry and other pro-EU Tories insist Mrs May did promise to discuss clause C and called on the prime minister to keep her promise or suffer a rebellion on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

On the other side of the Tory Party’s divide, Brexiteers warn the prime minister not to concede too much ground or agree to anything that could risk reversing the 2016 Leave vote.

14 JuneTory rebels reject compromise amendment

After talks between Tory Brexit rebels and ministers, the government reveals a compromise amendment that it tables to the EU Withdrawal Bill, ahead of the legislation returning to the House of Lords.

However, the group of Conservative backbenchers immediately reject the government’s proposal and accuse ministers of having altered a compromise they agreed to earlier in the day.

Mr Grieve says the unamendable nature of the “meaningful vote” offered to MPs under the government proposal is “not a satisfactory state of affairs”.

It has been suggested, in the event of there being no Brexit deal or parliament rejecting a UK-EU agreement, that MPs want the ability to be able to instruct the government to return to negotiations, extend Article 50 talks, or even call a second EU referendum.

As an insurance policy, Mr Grieve asks peers to table his original amendment in the House of Lords.

So, what happens next?

18 JuneHouse of Lords considers House of Commons amendments

Without an agreement between Tory rebels and the government, it is likely peers will pass Mr Grieve’s amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill when it returns to the House of Lords in the latest stage of parliamentary “ping pong”.

20 June Parliamentary showdown?

If passed by the House of Lords, MPs will then be asked whether or not to back Mr Grieve’s amendment in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Without any further government concessions on the issue, this could see a parliamentary showdown between Tory rebels and Mrs May in a crunch vote.

It has even been suggested a vote could be made a matter of confidence in the prime minister.

Written by BayRadio

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