Brexit amendment that might have limited PM's losses is rejected
A backbench Tory amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit deal that Downing Street had hoped could limit the extent of her likely losses on the key vote has not been selected by the Speaker, John Bercow, meaning MPs will not get a chance to express their view on it.
The amendment, tabled by the Conservative MP Andrew Murrison and backed by 29 of his colleagues, called for the backstop solution to the Irish border to “expire on 31 December 2021” if it came into force, and was seen as a sop to MPs on the issue.
While the idea goes against the withdrawal agreement with Brussels, the hope was that if it drew much support it could help the prime minister if she returned to the EU to seek new concessions after losing the vote.
However, even before the amendment was not picked, its likely impact was minimised after the DUP said such machinations would not make it change its MPs’ minds.
“Today’s very belated amendments are part of the internal parliamentary games and do not change the need to secure legally binding changes,” a party spokesman said.
Bercow, beginning the fifth and final day of debate on the plan, said he had accepted four amendments. With voting due to start at 7pm, that should push the result on May’s deal back to around 8.15pm.
The amendments chosen include one tabled by Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour frontbenchers. It seeks to rule out a no-deal departure, and criticises May’s plan for not providing “a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal”.
Another frontbench amendment jointly tabled by the SNP and Plaid Cymru was also chosen. This condemns the deal on the basis it “would be damaging for Scotland, Wales and the nations and regions of the UK as a whole”.
Two backbench amendments were picked. The first, by the Tory MP Edward Leigh and backed by about a dozen colleagues, seeks to limit the scope of the backstop by saying it is temporary, and that international law decrees the UK can unilaterally end the withdrawal agreement if there is any attempt to extend the backstop beyond 2021.
The final amendment, tabled by another veteran Tory MP, John Baron, is also on the backstop. This states that the UK would have the right to terminate it without the say-so of the EU.
The amendments will be taken in order – the Labour amendment, then the SNP/Plaid Cymru, Leigh and then Baron – and if one is passed by MPs then the full, amended motion will immediately be put to the vote without any subsequent amendments being considered, Bercow said.
Earlier, May told her cabinet that “the government is the servant of the people”. Ministers had discussed “the buildup to the vote and what would happen afterwards”, May’s spokesman said, refusing to give further details.
The prime minister then headed to the Commons to see the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, open the final day of debate. She was then expected to retreat to her Commons office to speak to Tory MPs.
A Downing Street source said she had spoken to more than 20 MPs over the weekend and more on Monday and planned to speak to as many as possible before Tuesday evening’s vote.
May is expected to respond quickly if she is defeated, probably immediately after the vote, but it has not yet been decided whether it will be a point of order or a full emergency statement.
Asked if May would resign if she suffered a heavy defeat, her spokesman said: “The prime minister is determined she will deliver on the vote of the British people and she will take the UK out of the European Union.”