EU Rubbishes Labour's Brexit Vision, Calling it "Cakeism"

Anti-Brexit demonstrators gather outside the Houses of Parliament in London England. Chris J Ratcliffe Getty Images

Britain's Brexit minister told parliament on Tuesday to back down in a showdown over Prime Minister Theresa May's plans for leaving the European Union, warning lawmakers they could undermine negotiations with Brussels.

Following its defeat, the government's own amendment on the so-called meaningful vote will go forward to the House of Lords for debate next week - but with some changes.

There was little doubt the government would win on the customs union and single market, which some pro-EU lawmakers say is the only way for Britain to retain economically advantageous close ties with the bloc, with the opposition Labour Party also divided over future relations.

Brexit backers see this clause as weakening the government's negotiating position, as they want May to be able to threaten to walk away.

That said, while the government may have won the battle on customs, the war is still to come.

If the government avoids defeat, is Brexit a done deal?

In a day of drama, May's position seemed suddenly weaker when junior justice minister Phillip Lee, who has always been critical of Brexit strategy, resigned and said he would vote against the government. But she faces a gruelling bout of "parliamentary ping-pong" with the Lords, as the Bill bounces back and forth between the two Houses over the coming weeks.

"What would be the result to our government if we lost this vote today?" asked Conservative lawmaker Edward Leigh.


So it's worth remembering that while the government didn't lose any votes yesterday, Mrs May was forced into some embarrassing climb-downs that could come back to haunt her.

Conservative lawmakers Anna Soubry, Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve had expressed their support for a greater parliamentary role in scrutinising the government's Brexit bill during debates on Tuesday. By 2pm the only speeches had been from the two main frontbench spokesmen (Brexit minister, David Davis, and Labour's Matthew Pennycook).

In a concession, the government promised that lawmakers would have a say on what to do next if there is no agreement with the European Union, or if Parliament rejects the deal offered. MPs will vote on this particular amendment this afternoon. And overnight the former Cabinet minister has tabled a late, late amendment that gives the PM a little more wriggle room until 15 February, while insisting Parliament should get a binding vote if it doesn't like the outcome.

The amendment, in similar terms, calls for the government to join the European Free Trade Association - along with Norway - and maintain its membership of the European Economic Area.

British lawmakers voted down an amendment that would give Members of Parliament the power to veto the government's Brexit deal with Brussels.

May objected to the amendment - inserted by the House of Lords - because she said it would tie her hands in the negotiation. He added: "I understand the difficulties MPs representing constituencies which voted strongly for Leave or Remain have on the EEA amendment". After a bumpy week of Brexit spats within her administration and with the EU, May wants to fend off another setback in a long-awaited showdown with restive lawmakers.

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".

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