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Irish PM says EU needs decisions from UK, not internal debate

14 June 2018

(EurActiv) - Theresa May avoided a humiliating parliamentary defeat to her government's European Union withdrawal bill, but only after appearing to promise rebel MPs an effective block on a "no deal" Brexit.

But Brexit campaigners feared it could weaken Britain's negotiating stance in talks to leave the European Union and the Brexit ministry was quick to put out a statement saying: "We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the government's hands in the negotiation". Most of the last year's 11 Tory rebels, led by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, have indicated they will stand firm.

During three and a half hours of tense debate on amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, government whips held whispered conferences with a handful of Tories on the Commons benches.

There is no time to get the wording of the compromise text wrong because it will probably be debated and voted on in the House of Lords on Monday, according to one senior government official.

The British government has narrowly defeated a bid to give lawmakers more power over how the United Kingdom leaves the European Union - but only after offering concessions to a rebellious House of Commons.

The SNP leader at Westminster Ian Blackford was ejected for repeatedly refusing to sit down after Bercow, declined his request for an immediate vote on holding a new debate on the Brexit issue.

The government would not have sought a deal if it thought it had the votes to win, and they clearly blinked.

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Solicitor General Robert Buckland told BBC News at Ten: "There's an expectation that a discussion will yield some fruit, and I'm not saying it won't and it could very well end up with a further amendment in the Lords". Both sides say they do not want a hard border because the open frontier is part of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to the Troubles, reported the Independent. The victory was Pyrrhic, as the government's earlier climbdown all but ensures MPs will have an increased say on the terms of any deal.

Before the vote on the Labour amendment, which the party lost by 322 to 240, lawmaker Laura Smith resigned from her junior role in the team "shadowing" the cabinet office and five others left their roles as parliamentary private secretaries.

Mrs May said her approach would be guided by the principle that "the Government's hand in negotiations can not be tied by Parliament, but we need to be accountable to Parliament".

"I would rather not talk about extending that deadline at the moment", he said.

Leading pro-EU Conservative Sarah Wollaston announced she would vote with the Government so long as a promised further amendment in the Lords "closely reflects" the Grieve proposals.

But the resignation by Phillip Lee, who has always been critical of the government's Brexit strategy, underlined the deep rifts in the party over Brexit that makes such votes anything but easy.

Brexit Secretary David Davis, who reportedly has clashed with May, has warned Conservative Party rebels that proposals to give Parliament the power to direct negotiations with the European Union are simply a tactic to overturn the results of the 2016 referendum that mandated Britain's departure from the bloc.

Irish PM says EU needs decisions from UK, not internal debate