June 18, 2018

Scottish Labour MP resigns from frontbench to back Brexit rebellion

14 June 2018, 10:29 | Taylor George

After battles with her Cabinet and Brussels Theresa May’s third front will be the House of Commons | Carl Court Getty Images

After battles with her Cabinet and Brussels Theresa May’s third front will be the House of Commons | Carl Court  Getty Images

Sources close to Dr Lee said his resignation had been a "warning shot" to the government and that more departures would come if Mrs May had not made further concessions on her plans for a so-called "meaningful vote" and customs arrangements by the time two more Brexit Bills are debated next month.

During MPs' consideration of Lords changes to the key Brexit bill, the House of Commons also overturned two amendments that peers hoped would push the government into negotiating a customs union with the EU. That has potentially seismic consequences for the protracted and increasingly messy split from Brussels. But how much of the proposed amendment has actually been accepted by the government?

A move to extend the deadline, which Article 50 of the EU Treaty sets at two years after a formal notice to leave the bloc, would have to be requested by the United Kingdom and agreed to unanimously by the 27 remaining EU governments.

The Prime Minister's flagship legislation is on a knife edge as the government bids to reverse a slew of amendments imposed by the House of Lords. There are two reasons for that: the determination to keep pressure on the decide what it wants; and the long list of other problems that European Union leaders know they might have to deal with next year, including the ongoing fight with President Donald Trump over trade and the rise in populism in the region. The strength of this commitment is yet to be seen in writing - and the Brexit department is still insisting it has not given up control of the negotiations - but the anti-Brexit rebels showed they have the numbers to force a defeat should the government renege on its pledge.

First, "MPs voted to reverse the Lords amendment removing the "exit day" from the bill by 326 votes to 301 - a majority of 25".

The upshot of the shift may well be as dramatic as the parliamentary procedure is incomprehensible.

Following its defeat, the government's own version of the amendment will now go forward. The bill then returns to the House of Commons again later next week.

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Five Labour MPs - Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann and Graham Stringer - voted with the government.

The Bracknell MP, who called for a second referendum on whatever deal Mrs May secures from the European Union, later told the Commons there was growing evidence that the Government's Brexit policy is "detrimental to the people we were elected to serve". "It seems to wreck their plans".

Junior minister Laura Smith resigned from the shadow cabinet along with four parliamentary private secretaries ahead of the vote on staying in the European Economic Area (EEA).

But she also set ground rules, saying she would not allow parliament to tie her hands in the Brexit negotiations in Brussels or allow lawmakers to overturn "the will of the British people" - conditions that limit the powers she can hand over.

Delivering his bombshell at a Bright Blue event in London today, Dr Lee said: 'I believe that the evidence now shows that the Brexit policy our government is currently pursuing, on the basis of the 2016 referendum, is detrimental to the people we are elected to serve. They stood down after the government promised to engage in talks on a compromise. This is where Conservative rebels like Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Ken Clark are expected to make their biggest move on customs.

That said, while the government may have won the battle on customs, the war is still to come. Yes, it's a significant compromise but we live to fight another day. Prime Minister Theresa May could decide to ask for an extension rather than risking a "cliff-edge" no deal.

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