The government has been accused of trying to “gag” parliament by insisting that a vote on any Brexit deal reached by Theresa May will see MPs forced to accept or reject a ‘clean’ motion on the agreement, before any amendments can be made.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, summoned to the House of Commons to explain the procedure for a so-called ‘meaningful vote’, reiterated that approval by MPs would be on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, with no ability to alter the terms of Brexit once a deal has been struck.
His comments prompted anger on both sides of the House, with Conservative MPs warning Mr Raab that the country would “never forgive” a breach of trust after the government had earlier promised parliamentarians a “meaningful” say.
“Any amendment to the motion would not be able to effect amendments to the withdrawal agreement or the future framework, which will have been agreed at the international level between the United Kingdom and the European Union; nor could any such amendment delay or prevent our departure from the EU as set out under article 50,” Mr Raab told MPs.
Addressing the leading Remainer on the Conservative benches, the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, Mr Raab acknowledged that his colleague “may wish to change the terms of the agreement that has been struck”.
The Brexit Secretary added: “I think that would come up against very real, practical and diplomatic obstacles.
“So late in the day, there would not be time to revisit the negotiation. Secondly, just from a practical, diplomatic point of view, is he really suggesting that at that point we would actually be offered different or more favourable terms?
“I think that that is unlikely in the extreme.”
In votes during the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, the government avoided defeat on the crucial Brexit legislation by promising MPs they would get a ‘meaningful vote’ that allowed the motion putting the deal before the Commons to be amended.
During exchanges yesterday, Mr Grieve told Mr Raab that the government’s plans for the Commons vote were “entirely unsatisfactory”, adding: “My right honourable friend knows that a lot in this House depends on trust... it tends to undermine trust in the government’s intention to honour the commitments they gave to the House.”
Fellow Conservative Remainer Anna Soubry said it was “quite incredible for the Secretary of State to stand up and basically say that, as a former minister who navigated the [Withdrawal Bill] through the House, they did not understand the consequences.”
Labour MP Luciana Berger said it was “clear from what the Secretary of State has just told us that the government are not offering the House a meaningful vote.
“How does it amount to Parliament taking back control if the government are now attempting to gag our democracy by preventing MPs from being able to amend the motion first?”