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Government avoids defeat on Brexit bill

13 June 2018

Facing the prospect of losing a vote on a crucial amendment to the government's flagship Brexit legislation - which was created 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.

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. "It was the prime minister who I sat in front of this afternoon and who gave us those assurances".

"It has got to be done in good faith, because without that, we will face a situation where in fact, firstly, the other place will put it back in and secondly the goodwill will be gone when it comes back to this house", leading rebel Dominic Grieve told lawmakers. "I can not support the government's decision to oppose this amendment because doing so breaches such fundamental principles of human rights and parliamentary sovereignty", he said.

Earlier, the prime minister had been hit by the resignation of justice minister Phillip Lee, who came out in support of a second referendum on the UK's final divorce deal and criticised Mrs May's Brexit policy.

Her fellow Conservative backbencher Stephen Hammond said: "Parliament must be able to have its say in a "no deal" situation".

"This justifies my decision to resign and makes it a lot less painful".

May is seeking to overturn 14 of 15 amendments passed by the Lords earlier this year, but has a fight on her hands due to her fragile majority in the 650-seat Commons.

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During Tuesday's debate, Ms Soubry told the House of Commons that a fellow Remainer MP had to be guarded by six armed undercover police officers at a recent public event.

Dr Lee's shock departure came as Brexit Secretary David Davis warned potential Tory rebels that they can not undo the European Union referendum, ahead of a tricky 48 hours in which the Government will try to get its Brexit programme back on track.

The U.K. voted to leave the political and economic bloc of 28 nations in June 2016.

The right-wing press is presenting the upcoming votes as a make-or-break moment, continuing its longstanding tactic of describing the Brexit process as the "will of the people" and any attempts to seek greater democratic oversight of the process as "undemocratic".

Brexit Minister Steve Baker said the Government would "look very carefully" at the amendment, which is being tabled by former Cabinet Ministers Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "As has become a tradition in Brexit negotiations, the Tories have been forced to cobble together a compromise. That's what this House voted on Article 50".

The new amendment will be written up at a later stage with detailed plans and concessions.

Government avoids defeat on Brexit bill