Remain rebels tonight rejected Theresa May’s ‘sneaky’ attempt at a compromise over a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.
The Government tabled a new draft moments before the 5pm deadline but failed to secure the support of ringleaders Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry.
Rebel Sarah Wollaston branded Mrs May’s draft ‘sneaky’ because a last minute change meant the proposed ‘meaningful vote’ would not be amendable by MPs.
Ms Soubry branded the turnaround ‘unforgivable’ and said the group of rebels – thought to number around 15 – feel ‘badly let down’ by Mrs May following her personal assurances on Tuesday night.
A failure to reach a deal sets the stage for another huge showdown over the EU Withdrawal Bill – also known as the Brexit Bill – next week.
The rebels believed they had been promised a vote that could effectively veto on the Government walking away from Brexit talks without a deal.
Ex-Tory minister Baroness Ros Altmann is believed to have tabled rival provisions on behalf of pro-EU Tories as an ‘insurance policy’.
Mrs May delivered a stark warning yesterday that MPs must not be allowed to ‘tie the hands’ of the government in Brexit negotiations.
Her Government tonight defended the amendment as meeting this test and insisted it met the demands of those who wanted a vote on the final deal.
The Prime Minister (pictured at a business event in Downing Street yesterday) is attempting to defuse tensions with Tory Remainers by tabling a compromise amendment to the flagship EU Withdrawal Bill on a ‘meaningful vote’ for Parliament
Tory Remainers including former ministers Dominic Grieve (right) and Anna Soubry (left on the BBC tonight) insist the PM gave them a ‘personal assurance’ that their concerns would be addressed
Rebel Sarah Wollaston (pictured in the Commons this week) branded Mrs May’s draft ‘sneaky’ because a last minute change meant the proposed ‘meaningful vote’ would not be amendable by MPs
Tory Remainers including former ministers Mr Grieve, Ms Soubry and Nicky Morgan insist the PM gave them a ‘personal assurance’ that their concerns would be addressed during a convoluted showdown in the Commons on Tuesday night.
Mr Grieve said there had been an agreed text at 2pm this afternoon, prompting him to get on a train to take part in Question Time tonight.
After the final version emerged he told the BBC: ‘It is unacceptable. At the end of the process something was inexplicably changed, which had not been agreed.
‘The Government has made the motion unamendable, contrary to the usual methods of the House of Commons and therefore it cannot be accepted.’
Ms Soubry tweeted: ‘I understand the Government has tabled an amendment that has not been agreed by Dominic Grieve.
‘Grateful for the conversations but without consultation what was agreed earlier today has been changed.’
She later told the BBC the Government about face was ‘unforgivable, I’m very, very disappointed’, adding: ‘People took the PM at her word… they feel badly let down.’
The text of the Government motion requires ministers only to provide a ‘neutral motion’ on the Brexit deal – meaning the Rebels would not be able to amend it to make their own demands for negotiations
The rules set by the Government motion would require a statement by a minister on the negotiations within two weeks of a vote on January 21, 2019, if there is no deal
Another rebel, Dr Wollaston, tweeted: ‘Ah ha, so just to be clear we are now going to have to amend the ‘unamendable’ after the agreed amendable amendment acquired a sneaky sting in the tail.
‘What a time to be alive.’
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘The Government’s amendment is simply not good enough.
‘Theresa May has gone back on her word and offered an amendment that takes the meaning out of the meaningful vote. Parliament cannot – and should not – accept it.’
A Brexit department spokeswoman said: ‘Our new amendment respects the tests set out by the Prime Minister and the Brexit Secretary.
‘We have listened to those across the House who called for the ability to express their views, in the unlikely event that our preferred scenario did not come to pass.’
She said there would now be a vote in both Commons and Lords if Parliament rejects the deal, if talks end with no deal, and if there is a deal by January 21, 2019.
She added: ‘This ensures that in all circumstances Parliament can hold Government to account, while also allowing Government to deliver on the will of the British people as expressed in the referendum.
‘But this remains hypothetical and the Government is confident we will agree a good deal with the EU which Parliament will support.’
Rebel Anna Soubry was the first to reveal talks had collapsed, warning that ‘what was agreed earlier today has been changed’
Health committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston said the Government amendment had a ‘sneak sting in the tail’
Earlier today senior Tory MP Tom Tugendhadt, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said amendment is unnecessary as the Government will inevitably collapse if Parliament rejects the PM’s deal.
Speaking to Sky News today, Mr Tugendhadt said Mrs May’s government will collapse if Parliament rejects her Brexit deal.
What is the row over a meaningful vote on Brexit about?
Tory rebels have been fighting to force Theresa May to agree to give Parliament a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal.
The government has already committed that there will be a vote on the terms reached with Brussels.
But Tory rebels want her to go further . They say that if the PM does not get a Brexit deal by November she must take a motion setting out her strategy to parliament – and this will be voted on by MPs.
If she has still not reached a deal by next February next year then Parliament should be able to give her orders on what to negotiate.
And if the PM does not get a deal, they want MPs to vote on it.
Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat in the Commons earlier this week, the PM thrashed out a verbal compromise with the backbenchers.
But her compromise amendment has failed to win the support of the rebels.
The PM has set the three red lines she says the compromise cannot cross. These are:
1. Not overturn the referendum
2. Undermine the negotiations
3. Not change the convention which gives the Government the power to negotiate
Mr Tugendhat said he ‘thought’ MPs would get a ‘meaningful vote anyway’.
He said: ‘The meaningful vote is going to be either the government’s deal is accepted, in which case that’s the meaningful vote accepted.
‘Or it isn’t accepted in which case, frankly, there’s going to be a new government.’
Challenged by Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg at PMQs yesterday, Mrs May said she would defend the ‘separation of powers’ between the executive and the legislature.
‘I cannot countenance Parliament being able to overturn the will of the British people.’
She said the fresh amendment to the flagship Brexit Bill would spell out how ministers would be ‘accountable’ to MPs and peers.
The government escaped without further trouble in the House last night as an amendment demanding customs union membership was defeated.
Mr Rees-Mogg told Newsnight that the concessions sought by Tories including Mr Grieve would ‘gum up’ negotiations with the EU.
He added: ‘Can you imagine: the Government goes off to Brussels and says ‘we can only discuss these three things because these are the only ones that have been covered by a House of Commons resolution’.
‘The EU says no, it goes back to the Commons, a week passes, another resolution has passed, it means nothing has happened.’
He added that he would not support – or table – a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister and he ‘expected’ her to get a good deal out of the EU.
Labour divisions on Brexit erupted again last night in a vote on whether Britain should stay in the EU single market – the European Economic Area (EEA).
Despite Jeremy Corbyn trying to avert a revolt by ordering his MPs to abstain on the issue, the party split three ways and six frontbenchers quit.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured at PMQs) suffered a major rebellion last night in a vote on whether Britain should stay in the EU single market – the European Economic Area (EEA)
Laura Smith stepped down as a junior shadow cabinet office minister to vote with the Government, saying ‘remaining in the EEA is not the right way forward for our country’.
PM names replacement for minister who quit over Brexit
Theresa May has appointed a replacement for justice minister Phillip Lee, who quit her administration in order to be able to vote against the Government on Brexit.
Edward Argar was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice.
Mr Argar, 40, was elected to the Commons as MP for Charnwood in Leicestershire in 2015, and has not previously held ministerial rank. He supported Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.
Dr Lee quit as justice minister after two years in the post on Tuesday in order to join Tory rebels voting for a greater say for Parliament over the final Brexit deal.
In the event, Mrs May was able to see off the rebellion with the offer of a compromise amendment, and the Bracknell MP ended up abstaining on the vote.
But five parliamentary private secretaries (PPS) voted in favour of the EEA amendment; Ged Killen, Ellie Reeves, Tonia Antoniazzi, Anna McMorrin and Rosie Duffield, with all but Ms Duffield announcing their resignation before the vote.
The plan was comfortably defeated by the government.
Trying to put a brave face on the divisions afterwards, Mr Corbyn said: ‘I understand the difficulties MPs representing constituencies which voted strongly for Leave or Remain have on the EEA amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
‘The Labour Party respects the outcome of the EU referendum and does not support the EEA or Norway model as it is not the right for option for Britain.’
The Conservatives said the resignations showed that Mr Corbyn ‘can’t lead his own party let alone our country through complex Brexit negotiations’.
While Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable accused him of being ‘completely defunct as an Opposition Leader’.