An SNP MP has warned “there is not a rope in existence strong enough to hold Scotland” to the UK if the government delivers a no-deal Brexit, after Theresa May saw off a Commons rebellion over a ‘meaningful vote’ for MPs on the final deal with Brussels.
The government’s flagship Brexit legislation is finally set to clear parliament after MPs voted by 319 to 303 to reject a an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill giving the House of Commons the chance of blocking a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
A final round of scrutiny for the bill in the House of Lords is a formality and was set to be completed last night.
Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General who proposed the amendment and has pushed the government over the issue of a meaningful vote for MPs, did not vote for his own proposal after reaching a deal with Brexit Secretary David Davis.
It will now effectively be left up to the Speaker John Bercow to decide how much power MPs have to alter a motion that puts the final Brexit deal before the Commons later this year.
However, Labour and several other pro-EU Tories suggested the compromise was “meaningless”, as the motion will not be legally binding and could be ignored by ministers. Nicola Sturgeon described the measure as a “fudge”.
SNP MP Peter Grant warned that a no-deal Brexit would help cut ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
He warned the government: “If they seek to drag their people over the cliff-edge, our people are not going to follow.
“They will find that there is not a rope in existence that is strong enough to hold Scotland to their country, if their country seeks to take us over that cliff-edge.”
Mr Grieve was greeted with jeers of “shame” from the opposition benches when he declared he would back the Government.
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, one of six who did rebel, said she was “disappointed” by the result warned that she still fears a “cliff edge, no-deal Brexit”.
With government whips unsure of whether Mr Grieve would accept their offer until after debate had begun yesterday afternoon, there were furious efforts by both sides to squeeze out enough votes for victory.
Labour criticised the government for refusing to observe parliamentary traditions that allow very ill MPs to be ‘nodded through’ if they arrive at Westminster by car or ambulance, so that their votes are ‘paired’ with a MP from the opposite side and cancelled out.
It meant that two Labour MPs were pushed through the voting lobby in wheelchairs, with the Bradford West member Naz Shah seen carrying a hospital sick bowl on her lap.
The East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson, who is heavily pregnant and two days’ beyond her due date, also had to go through the voting lobby in person.
The government only prevailed thanks to the votes of nine Labour MP, four of whom voted against Mr Grieve’s amendments, and five who abstained.
A statement circulated to MPs by Mr Davis states that parliamentary rules gives the Commons Speaker the power to determine whether a “neutral” motion is amendable or not.
But Downing Street left no doubt ministers are confident of drafting a motion which Mr Bercow will deem to be unamendable.
Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “We will ensure that under standing orders the motion we bring forward is neutral.”
Mr Grieve said the statement amounted to an “obvious acknowledgement of the sovereignty of this place over the executive in black and white language”.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “This is a disappointing result and comes after Theresa May is forced once again to try to buy off her own MPs at the eleventh hour.
“Labour has long argued that Parliament should have a proper role in the Brexit negotiations and a meaningful vote on the terms upon which we leave the European Union.
“We will continue to make that argument and press our case at every opportunity.”