Archive for the ‘British politics’ Category

Brexit Groundhog Day for Theresa May

LONDON — It’s the biggest parliamentary crisis on Brexit that Theresa May has faced since the last parliamentary crisis on Brexit that Theresa May faced.

If you think there’s an air of Groundhog Day about Wednesday’s big vote in the House of Commons, you’re not alone. The vote, on an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, will effectively determine who — government or parliament — will dictate the course of Brexit in the event that May fails to strike a deal with the EU by January next year, or, if she does and MPs reject it.

It sounds technical but it’s a very big moment. If the amendment, “Grieve 2,” an adapted version of one drawn up by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, wins enough support among pro-European Conservative rebels, then a no-deal Brexit is more or less off the table. And while no one in the House of Commons is yet talking about delaying or reversing Brexit, the doors will be unlocked to the U.K. doing either.

Here’s what’s at stake in (yet another) crucial day in the Brexit saga:

Could this vote bring down Theresa May this week? Could it bring her down at a later date?

May’s political downfall is unlikely this week. There is little appetite in the Conservative Party to install a new leader. But a defeat for May would do little to quieten the already febrile atmosphere in parliament. A victory for the pro-European wing of the party would concern Brexiteers who already fear they have lost control of the negotiations.

Anti-Brexit campaigners in London, England | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

It is likely to be a different matter with the clock ticking when MPs vote on the eventual Withdrawal Agreement, whenever that day comes. It was expected to be in October, but this now looks less likely, with deadlines now being pushed back to January. If May’s deal is rejected by MPs at this stage, it would be a huge blow to her authority. Likewise if she has not secured a deal. Regardless of the Grieve amendment, her position would be extremely precarious.

What powers does the Grieve amendment give parliament? 

The key point of difference between the U.K. government and Grieve centers around whether their proposed motion will be amendable.

The government is simply offering a motion to take note “in neutral terms,” leaving MPs to take or leave their plan B.

Grieve’s motion by contrast would give MPs a formal route to make suggestions about what happens next.

The motion would not be binding on the government, but politically, the U.K. government would find it almost impossible to ignore a specific House of Commons direction.

Are Grieve and the other Tory rebels trying to stop Brexit?

Asked whether she thought Dominic Grieve was trying to stop Brexit on Monday, Tory MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan (who describes herself as “a loud Brexiteer“) told the BBC Daily Politics it is “starting to feel like that, yes.”

But Tory MPs pushing for the meaningful vote insist they are not trying to reverse the referendum result, but simply trying to prevent the U.K. from crashing out of the European Union with no deal.

“We are not rebels. We are pragmatic leavers. We don’t want to go off the edge of a cliff which would be a disaster for my constituents,” according to Antoinette Sandbach, one Conservative MP pushing for a meaningful vote.

“The meaningful vote is going to be either the government’s deal is accepted … or it isn’t accepted, in which case, frankly, there’s going to be a new government” — Tom Tugendhat, chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee

What happens if MPs reject the deal May returns from Brussels with?

The government insists, simply, that this would mean the U.K. leaving the EU without a deal — and it’s this insistence which is at the heart of the current crisis.

Under their own compromise amendment, the government would be obliged to “make a statement to Parliament” in such a scenario, Brexit Secretary David Davis said in a letter to peers last week, which would be followed by a vote so MPs and peers “can give their views of that eventuality” — the neutral terms motion that Grieve et al reject.

That’s officially what the government wants to happen. But the realpolitik of the situation could make a rejection of her Brexit deal a resigning issue for May.

Chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat said as much last week. “The meaningful vote is going to be either the government’s deal is accepted … or it isn’t accepted, in which case, frankly, there’s going to be a new government,” he told Sky News.

U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis | Andy Rain/EPA

The opposition Labour Party would almost certainly call for the prime minister to go (hopeful that the ensuing chaos would lead to a general election in which they could make gains) and May could be subject to a vote of no confidence.

Grieve argues that his amendment in fact provides a route out of a government collapse. “By having a mechanism by which the Commons can express a view without, for example, moving to a motion of no confidence which could collapse the government, that can give us time to both influence the government and think what best to do next,” he told the BBC on Tuesday.

What happens if there is still no deal in January?

Under the government’s compromise amendment, this triggers the same “statement to Parliament,” followed by a tokenistic vote, that is being offered in the event of MPs rejecting May’s deal.

The deadline they have set is January 21, 2019, just over two months before the end of the two-year Article 50 period and hence the U.K.’s exit date.

Under the “Grieve 2” amendment, the “no-deal by 21 January” scenario would trigger the same situation, but the vote that MPs and peers get would be a meaningful one — one which could have a bearing on the government’s next steps.

Options open to MPs and peers in this situation could include a change in negotiating stance, calling for an extension of the Article 50 period (which would have to be approved by all 27 EU member countries) or putting May’s deal to the country in a referendum.

The softest of Brexits (so-called Norway plus), or even better a second referendum with a sheepish U.K. opting to remain within the bloc, would be a win for the EU27.

Is no deal now less likely?

If the Grieve 2 amendment is adopted, a no-deal Brexit would appear to be off the table altogether.

Why? Because only two scenarios would then be possible: MPs accepting May’s Brexit deal and the U.K. leaving the EU on those terms, or MPs rejecting May’s deal and then taking control of the process. If that happens, it is virtually impossible to imagine a scenario in which the House of Commons and the House of Lords would collectively decide to leave with no deal.

Remember that a roughly 3-to-1 majority of MPs backed Remain in the referendum. That doesn’t mean they still want to be in the EU in defiance of the referendum result, but it does tell you that they are unlikely to back what nearly all economists and analysts think will be the most costly, disruptive Brexit imaginable.

Anti-Brexit campaigners demonstrate outside the houses of parliament on April 16, 2018 in London | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

What does it mean for negotiations?

A lot potentially.

The concern within the government and among Brexiteers runs like this: If Grieve’s amendment passes, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team in Brussels will know that even if the talks break down or the deal they strike with May is rejected by MPs, that does not mean no deal.

The softest of Brexits (so-called Norway plus), or even better a second referendum with a sheepish U.K. opting to remain within the bloc, would be a win for the EU27. Barnier himself has made very clear that if the U.K. changes its red lines then his offer will change too, arguing last month that Norway plus is the only option that would allow for frictionless trade.

With a U.K. threat to walk away effectively off the table, and a U.K. parliament leaning toward a softer Brexit than that being pursued by May, it will be in his interests to stick to his red lines. Hold fire and he will be all but certain MPs will back his preferred option in January in the last frantic weeks before the negotiating clock runs down.

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Irish foreign minister: London giving ‘conflicting’ Brexit signals

BERLIN — It would be “unrealistic” to expect the EU and U.K. to resolve Brexit issues relating to the Irish border before EU leaders meet in Brussels later this month, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told POLITICO, citing “conflicting” signals from London.

“There’s been a lot of conflicting messaging quite frankly from British ministers in terms of what they want and don’t want from Brexit so we’ve always focused on what the prime minister is saying, not what other ministers that may have different perspectives have been saying,” he said.

As recently as April, Coveney had called for “definitive progress” on finding solutions to avoid a border on the island of Ireland by the European Council summit, or it would be “difficult for the negotiations to proceed as before.

But in his latest comments, the Irish foreign minister played down expectations of making headway on the issue before the summit. “I don’t think anyone is expecting to have a concluded agreement on what the Irish backstop looks like in terms of text by the end of June. That would be unrealistic. But we do need to see it taking shape because it doesn’t get any easier in July, August and September,” he said.

“The absence of any progress is going to create a lot of concern that these negotiations are going to get a lot more difficult over the summer,” he said.

U.K. government officials have also played down the possibility of a breakthrough on the Irish border issue by the end of the month.

Asked what he makes of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson ridiculing fears about an Irish border as “pure millennium bug stuff,” Coveney replied: “Boris has a perspective that I don’t share when it comes to Brexit … I don’t think it’s accurate.”

He said Dublin is focused on what Theresa May says. “We have focused on the negotiations on the basis of what the British prime minister says. She’s the person who signs off on any agreements.”

Coveney again reiterated the importance of the “backstop” solution for Northern Ireland that is intended to negate the need for border infrastructure in the absence of a wider deal on customs. The EU and U.K. agreed on the need for a backstop in December, but Theresa May subsequently rejected the EU’s interpretation of the deal as meaning that Northern Ireland would effectively remain within the EU’s customs territory.

“In the absence of agreed solutions, the U.K. would maintain full alignment with the rules of the single market and customs union in order to maintain north-south cooperation, an all-island economy and to protect the 1998 peace agreement,” said Coveney. “That language is printed on my brain. Prime Minister May was very sincere in her commitment then that she would ensure throughout these negotiations that the peace process would not be a casualty.”

But the Irish foreign minister maintained that the U.K.’s proposal for a “time-limited” backstop is unworkable. “If we can agree something better in the short term, great … if we can’t then the backstop has to last a lot longer than that … The real challenge now is how do we make the backstop for Ireland and Northern Ireland in terms of the border issue legally operable in a text that can go into the withdrawal treaty,” he said.

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Tory rebellion back on after MPs reject May’s compromise

LONDON — Forty-eight hours after averting a crisis, Theresa May brought Brexit back to the boil Thursday after a dramatic day of horse-trading ended in anger and uncertainty, which threatens to rip apart the fragile truce among the warring wings of the Conservative Party.

Backed into a corner by Brexiteers on one side and Tory Remainers on the other, the U.K. prime minister rolled the dice late Thursday afternoon by pushing forward with a proposal that offers MPs only a limited say on what would happen in the event of “no deal” being reached on the terms of Britain’s divorce from the EU in spring 2019.

The move caught leading Conservative rebels by surprise, sparking accusations of betrayal, and raising the prospect of a fresh crisis next week when a final vote on the government’s flagship EU (Withdrawal) Bill returns to the House of Commons.

If a compromise cannot be found, the showdown when it comes will go a long way to revealing how many MPs the prime minister can rely on in the final Brexit shakedown when she hopes to vote into law Britain’s EU exit package, ensuring an orderly withdrawal from the bloc.

Before then, ministers admitted there would be days more back-and-forth between the government and the Tory rebels. The bill will now return to the upper house, where peers can approve or reject May’s proposed compromise and attach further amendments to it. The bill will then come back to the Commons once more, where MPs likewise can reject or vote through amendments to the legislation.

“There will be more debate, undoubtedly,” said one minister closely involved in the negotiations. “What we can’t do is undermine the government’s position in any negotiations.”

The prime minister’s calculation, according to government ministers and aides, is that, after making a series of concessions, she now has the numbers in the Commons to finally see off her backbench anti-Brexit critics, who are pushing for MPs to be allowed to set the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU if no agreement can be reached with Brussels.

However, former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who has led talks with ministers over the proposed compromise, said the new proposal put forward by the government is unacceptable.

The standoff means May now faces a fresh dilemma: Risk a damaging defeat at the hands of Tory MPs determined to take the option of a no-deal Brexit off the table, or agree further concessions that could anger the hard Brexit wing of her party but strengthen her hand in the negotiations with Brussels by keeping alive the prospect that she could walk away if the terms on offer become too unappealing.

Last minute changes

The dispute between the government and a group of anti-Brexit Tory MPs centers around a “meaningful vote” on any eventual deal negotiated with Brussels, designed to enable MPs to vote down the final agreement without risking leaving the EU with no deal at all.

It comes after May appeared to have avoided defeat over the matter in parliament on Tuesday, as she gave assurances to rebels in her own party that she would make concessions in a new, government-backed amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill if they gave her their support.

But she has been under pressure from Brexiteer Tories, who fear a binding meaningful vote could give parliament the power to stop Brexit altogether and could damage the U.K.’s negotiating position.

Grieve said he had “thought that we had reached an agreement” at lunchtime on Thursday, but claimed ministers later changed an important part of the text “at the last minute,” which means any vote would merely indicate the government had considered MPs’ views. Grieve had hoped parliament would be able to amend the motion so that MPs could set out what kind of action the government should take if they rejected a deal negotiated with Brussels.

“The motion is unamendable and that means that it is just a motion to take note and it is contrary to the normal procedures of the House of Commons and it is a mistake,” he said, adding that he would try to persuade the government to change its mind.

Grieve is one of more than a dozen MPs who threatened to defeat the government over the vote — but was persuaded to back the government after being given personal assurances by May.

In a tweet, Tory rebel Sarah Wollaston said MPs would have to “amend the ‘unamendable’ after the agreed amendable amendment acquired a sneaky sting in the tail.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said the government’s new amendment respected the tests set out by Brexit Secretary David Davis on Tuesday evening, which state any compromise amendment must not undermine negotiations with Brussels or hinder the government’s ability to negotiate international treaties in the future. The spokeswoman said the government had listened to MPs who had called for the “ability to express their views, in the unlikely event that our preferred scenario did not come to pass.”

One U.K. government official claimed Grieve had “got what he wanted.”

“He said he wanted a meaningful vote, he’s got one. He said he didn’t want to stop Brexit, he can’t.”

Brexit plague on all party houses

Brexit is to party unity what toddlers are to their parents’ homes: totally destructive.

Everyone knows the Tory Party has a Europe problem, but take a quick look at Labour and the divisions — if anything — are even worse.

On Wednesday the party somehow managed to split itself three ways on a binary issue, for or against remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Unable to reach a united position, Jeremy Corbyn ordered his troops to abstain on the proposed amendment to the government’s flagship EU (Withdrawal) Bill which, if passed, would have bound the government to keeping the U.K. inside the EU’s single market.

Corbyn’s decision to abstain killed the amendment stone dead, denying pro-EU MPs what might have been, under a different Labour leader, a crunch moment for the government given the small but significant support on the Tory benches for Britain’s continued membership of the single market.

Many observers believe that despite this week’s shenanigans, if May can win anything approaching a “sensible” Brexit.

While 163 Labour MPs backed Corbyn by abstaining on the amendment, 90 more defied him — 75 voting in favor of the U.K. remaining in the EEA, but — crucially — 15 voting against. In the process, six members of the Labour frontbench resigned to deviate from the leadership’s position — including Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Laura Smith.

The vote tells us much about the ongoing and often overlapping divisions in British politics over the country’s future relationship with the EU.

It is not simply a question of one side being in favor of “soft” Brexit inside the single market and the other half preferring a “hard” break.

At the moment the real question is whether there is a majority in the House of Commons for any type of Brexit — hard, soft or any other shade.

Privately, MPs say this is because the real choices are not yet in front of them, meaning all types of fantasy Brexits are theoretically still on the table. If you can have the moon on a stick, why settle for a lollipop?

British Prime Minister Theresa May | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The prime minister’s job over the next four months is to win agreement for a Brexit — any Brexit — that forces MPs to pick their side: for or against.

Many observers believe that despite this week’s shenanigans, if May can win anything approaching a “sensible” Brexit — by which they mean anything which does not entail too sharp a break with Brussels in the short term — then enough MPs will vote with the government rather than risk a political crisis.

The push for a “meaningful vote” is an attempt to stop this crunch from happening.

The point of Dominic Grieve’s proposed amendment is to stop the government making the final Brexit deal “take it or leave it” — with a messy, no-deal divorce the alternative to accepting the separation terms on offer.

The upshot is that the government may have to make the final Brexit deal more in line with the general mood of the House of Commons, because if it’s too far outside MPs’ comfort zone they may feel they can vote it down without triggering chaos.

The true meaning of Wednesday’s big Labour rebellion, however, may be even more profound. The Labour leader’s credibility is unlikely to survive abstaining on the final deal.

An attempt to amend the final deal, asking the government to go back to the negotiating table to win further concessions, is all-but certain.

But given the party’s division on display last night — and backbench Tory concerns not to hand Corbyn a personal victory — most MPs do not believe Labour would win such a vote.

In these circumstances, Labour will have to vote against the government’s Brexit deal.

Given last night’s small, but significant Euroskeptic rebellion, Corbyn may struggle to bring all his MPs with him in the final push over the top.

And this might be all May needs to squeeze over the line. First, though, she needs a deal with Brussels.

This insight is from POLITICO‘s Brexit Files newsletter, a daily afternoon digest of the best coverage and analysis of Britain’s decision to leave the EU available to Brexit Pro subscribers. Sign up here.

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British pub chain to stop selling European booze ahead of Brexit

JD Wetherspoon, a pub company with chains across the U.K., said today it plans to replace its French champagne and German beers with British and non-European alternatives.

Tim Martin, the British company’s pro-Brexit chairman, said the group’s 880 pubs would start to offer a greater number of drinks from British and non-EU producers and brewers starting July 9 in anticipation of Britain’s exit from the EU.

The group will replace French champagnes with sparkling wines produced in the U.K. and Australia, and replace German wheat beers with American and British alternatives, it said in a statement. The company will keep a Swedish cider on the menu, as the producer has said it plans to move some production to the U.K. post-Brexit.

The move is part of Wetherspoon’s long-term strategy to “broaden our horizons” and review “all products” over the next two years to make the business “more competitive,” according to Martin, who is a vocal Brexit advocate and has called on Britain to leave the EU customs union.

“The products we are now introducing are at lower prices than the EU products they are replacing,” Martin said, adding that the group intended to “honor existing contracts with EU suppliers, some of which have several years to run.”

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MPs force major soft Brexit shift

LONDON — A super soft Brexit — or no Brexit at all — just got more likely.

In a battle of wills between the prime minister and the House of Commons on Tuesday, it was Theresa May who emerged weakened having been pushed into a series of significant concessions to anti-Brexit Conservative MPs in order to fend off a damaging parliamentary defeat.

Facing the prospect of losing a vote on a crucial amendment to the government’s flagship Brexit legislation — which was designed to empower parliament to vote down the final deal without risking a “no-deal” exit from the bloc — ministers intervened with a concession at the 11th hour even as MPs were wrapping up debate on the controversial measure. 

They reassured anti-Brexit MPs that the government would accept some of their core demands to give parliament a meaningful say on the terms of Britain’s EU divorce, including — potentially — a new deadline for a deal to be agreed with Brussels that could make it hard for the government.

The upshot is that May has survived another day in the battle to extract Britain from the European Union — and may yet pull off a compromise that wins the support of both wings of her party — but it is the rebel Remainers who believe they are now in the ascendency. That has potentially seismic consequences for the protracted and increasingly messy split from Brussels.

The government concession is all the more remarkable because of the strength of opposition to the original amendment from ministers.

The shift makes it significantly harder for the government to force through a “hard Brexit” outside the customs union and single market. It also increases the prospect of MPs forcing a referendum on the terms of the eventual deal or even of a snap election before the end of the year.

To buy off a group of Tory rebels — whose ranks were boosted by the shock resignation of Justice Minister Phillip Lee Tuesday morning — the prime minister agreed in principle, according to the rebels, to write into law a new deadline in the Brexit talks: November 30, 2018.

Under the proposal, if no deal has been reached with Brussels by this point, the government will return to the House of Commons to determine the next course of action. 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.

Crucially, ministers have conceded that if MPs vote down the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels, that will not result in the U.K. crashing out of the EU with no deal — a scenario that few MPs would countenance because of the significant economic damage it would entail. Anti-Brexit MPs had argued that removing the no-deal consequence was necessary for the vote to be a meaningful one.

Pro-EU demonstrators celebrate former Justice Minister Phillip Lee following his resignation over Brexit negotiations | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The government concession is all the more remarkable because of the strength of opposition to the original amendment from ministers. Opening the debate, Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “What it actually amounts to is an unconstitutional shift, which risks undermining our negotiations with the European Union. It enables parliament to dictate to government its course of action in an international negotiation.”

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

The battle now moves to the House of Lords, where the government will formally reveal how much it has conceded in the wording of a new amendment expected on Monday or Tuesday. The bill then returns to the House of Commons again later next week. Should the prime minister go back on her pledge, the rebels are confident their amendment will be inserted into the bill in the Lords.

MPs, ministers and officials all agreed Tuesday that a soft Brexit or even the prospect of no Brexit is greatly increased — so too the prospect of a snap early election before the end of the year.

“We have now removed every incentive from the EU for doing a deal by the end of November,” one senior U.K. government official said. “How can Boris [Johnson, the foreign secretary] and the ERG [the European Research Group of Euroskeptic MPs] live with this? It seems to wreck their plans.”

If we are heading for an impasse in November, everything is on the table.” — U.K. government official

The logic of that argument is that EU negotiator Michel Barnier would prefer the softest of Brexits — a model known as “Norway plus,” in which Britain remains in the European Economic Area (EEA) and the customs union, accepting all single market rules, including freedom of movement, and the EU’s trade policy without any representation in Brussels. Given that after November 30, the House of Commons looks set to be empowered in the negotiations, it would not be in Barnier’s interest to negotiate a harder form of Brexit before the U.K.’s self-imposed deadline.

The government was putting a combative spin on the concessions Tuesday evening: “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 international treaties, and respecting the referendum result,” a spokesperson for the Brexit department said in a statement.

“We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the government’s hands in the negotiations.”

But government officials admitted that the concession does constrain their freedom in the Brexit talks.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s goal of a soft Brexit is now closer to becoming a reality | Balazs Mohai/EPA

Brexiteers were dejected by the turn of events, but are pinning their immediate hopes on the detail in the government’s compromise. The prime minister still has time to come up with a form of words acceptable to both sides, but the expectations of the anti-Brexit rebels have been raised significantly.

One government official said: “It’s not over yet. Yes, it’s a significant compromise but we live to fight another day. If we are heading for an impasse in November, everything is on the table. There could be a confidence motion [in the prime minister] or an early general election.”

Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, was refusing to accept the government at its word Tuesday. He 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 will wait and see the details of this concession and will hold ministers to account to ensure it lives up to the promises they have made to parliament.”

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UK government wins key Brexit vote after concession

LONDON — The U.K. government has agreed to give parliament more power over its Brexit negotiations in a last-ditch bid to avoid a damaging House of Commons defeat.

Rebel Conservative MPs, who had threatened to vote against the government, agreed to lend their numbers to overturn a House of Lords amendment giving parliament a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal after ministers agreed to address their concerns. The Lords amendment was defeated in the Commons Tuesday by 324 votes to 298.

The amendment was one of 15 that peers had made to the bill as it made a bruising passage through the upper chamber. The government hopes to strip out or replace all but one of those amendments. It was most vulnerable on the so-called meaningful vote amendment, but had strongly resisted it on the grounds that it would set a precedent if the executive wis no longer able to negotiate international treaties.

The possibility of a government defeat over the amendment began to look more likely after junior Justice Minister Phillip Lee resigned from the government in order to vote for it.

“It is fundamentally important that parliament should have a voice so that it can influence the final outcome in the interests of the people that it serves,” Lee said.

His resignation didn’t prompt an immediate response from the government, but at the 11th hour, ministers evidently feared a Commons defeat. During the debate, potential rebels, including former Attorney General Dominic Grieve were invited out of the chamber for discussions with the Chief Whip Julian Smith.

Ministers have told rebel Conservatives they will agree to seek House of Commons approval for their course of action if no political accord has been reached on the withdrawal agreement agreed with Brussels by November 30, which the original amendment had demanded.

“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 international treaties, and respecting the referendum result,” a spokesperson for the Brexit department later said in a statement. “We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the government’s hands in the negotiations.”

But discussions with the rebels are ongoing about the precise wording of the new amendment — specifically over whether to amend the legislation to “follow any direction” from the houses of parliament if no political agreement on the withdrawal agreement has been reached by February 19, 2019. If and when agreement can be reached, the new amendment will be introduced in the House of Lords, when the bill returns there in the next stage of its passage through parliament.

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