Monday, 18 June, 2018

British prime minister survives another key Brexit vote Europe 08:09

Brexit debate in Parliament GETTYMPs are debating the Brexit Bill in the Commons
Deanna Wagner | 15 June, 2018, 01:32

LONDON - Theresa May avoided defeats on key pillars of her Brexit policy after a majority of MPs voted with the United Kingdom government to defeat a number of amendments on Wednesday evening.

The House of Commons was holding a second day of votes on the European Union Withdrawal Bill, meant to disentangle Britain from the bloc.

On the second day of debate on changes to May's European Union withdrawal bill, lawmakers will vote on amendments from the upper house of parliament over Britain's relationship to the bloc's customs union and single market.

If she fails to deliver, she will lose their goodwill and face a backlash she won't be able to contain, people familiar with the matter said. That has potentially seismic consequences for the protracted and increasingly messy split from Brussels. The government has also put down some amendments aimed at uniting the party around a compromise. There are two reasons for that: the determination to keep pressure on the U.K.to 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 usual offer of ministerial elevation or gongs can not save May in this instance - all she has left is the threat that the rebels are opening the door to Jeremy Corbyn and that another snap election will cost some of them their seats.

The deal could include customs arrangements, financial settlement, jurisdiction of European Union courts, and potential transition arrangements (i.e., a delay to the implementation of Brexit).

But it will all depend on what the majority of the soft-Brexit Tory MPs felt that the promise actually was.

May's government is divided between Brexit-backing ministers such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who support a clean break with the European Union, and those such as Treasury chief Philip Hammond who want to keep closely aligned to the bloc, Britain's biggest trading partner.

The upshot of the shift may well be as dramatic as the parliamentary procedure is incomprehensible. "In which case, frankly, there's going to be a new government". The bill then returns to the House of Commons again later next week.

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Turning back migrants at the border, she said this week, would only add pressure to neighboring countries such as Italy and Greece.

As party rebels threatened to overturn her administration's slim majority, May compromised, promising to allow an amendment of her own to allow more parliamentary control.

Jeremy Corbyn urged his MPs to abstain but 75 voted for and 15 against, while six quit their frontbench roles. But pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Heidi Allen said it was inevitable "we will have to come to a customs union agreement", even if it was given another label. "It seems to wreck their plans".

The U.K. leader added, however, that she was reluctant to reveal her full negotiating strategy.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: "Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat, Theresa May has been forced to enter negotiations with her backbenchers and offer a so-called concession".

"We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the government's hands in the negotiations".

Another Conservative Remainer, former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, denied that the rebels had been "played" by the Prime Minister.

One government official said: "It's not over yet".

The final compromise has yet to be agreed and will be discussed in private over the coming days. "There could be a confidence motion [in the prime minister] or an early general election".

They accepted a proposal by Labour MP Yvette Cooper to widen the terms under which unaccompanied child refugees can be reunited with family members living in the UK.