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Theresa May suffers setback as justice minister resigns over Brexit policy

20 June 2018
Theresa May suffers setback as justice minister resigns over Brexit policy

The government didn't lose a single vote yesterday out of 14.

It was defeated in the House of Commons by 327 votes to 126.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland conceded to the rebels' central demand that the Commons will get a vote if the Government walks away from talks without a deal, or if there is no deal by November 30.

Former Tory cabinet minister Dominic Grieve, who tried to broker a compromise between MPs and ministers, has warned a no-deal scenario could lead to a "national crisis".

Hours before the debate started, a justice minister who has always been critical of the handling of Brexit, resigned in protest at what he called the government's "wish to limit" the role of lawmakers in shaping Brexit and said he would vote against the prime minister.

A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said: "The Brexit Secretary has set out three tests that any new amendment has to meet - not undermining the negotiations, not changing the constitutional role of Parliament and Government in negotiating global treaties, and respecting the referendum result".

Losing the vote in the Commons would have spelt serious trouble for Mrs May, whose position as prime minister was weakened past year when she lost her parliamentary majority after calling a general election.

In a highly charged atmosphere in parliament, lawmakers who oppose the government said they had received death threats and brandished a copy of one of Britain's tabloid newspapers, the Daily Express, which ran a headline saying: "Ignore the will of the people at your peril". But Brexiters reacted with fury to the idea that MPs could be allowed to constrain the government's ability to leave the European Union without a deal, if it believes that is the right course.

Dr Lee said he could not "look his children in the eye" and support the way Brexit is "currently being delivered". He replied: "I think that's a fair assessment".

Dr Lee's shock departure came as Brexit Secretary David Davis warned potential Tory rebels that they can not undo the European Union referendum, ahead of a tricky 48 hours in which the Government will try to get its Brexit programme back on track. "Any compromise [amendment] would have to be tabled by Govt in Lords".

Details of precisely what this will involve could emerge in the coming days when the EU Withdrawal bill is due to return to the House of Lords.

Corbyn has said the party won't be voting with the government on this amendment because the Conservatives "offer no plan for securing the full tariff free access to the EU's internal market, which is so vital for jobs and living standards in our country".

"There's a reasonable expectation that something will emerge, but I need to work on that and more importantly work with colleagues to come up with something".

However, Devon Tory Sarah Wollaston signalled that she would back Mr Grieve's amendment.

May is struggling to unite not only her party but her top team of ministers over how to leave the European Union, particularly over the future customs arrangements which have pitted those wanting closer ties with the European Union against others who demand a clean break.

If there is still no deal by February, MPs would decide what happens next. How does parliament have a say in those circumstances?

May said the government would amend the bill to address legislators' concerns, but warned that "I can not countenance Parliament being able to overturn the will of the British people". This is where Conservative rebels like Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Ken Clark are expected to make their biggest move on customs. In my view, this raises the important principle of legitimacy: I do not believe it would be right for the Government to pursue such a course without a plan to seek a confirmatory mandate for the outcome.