PM won't commit to Brexit vote as pound makes slow recovery
Theresa May has refused to commit to giving MPs a vote on her Brexit strategy despite growing Tory calls for more clarity on the plan before the formal process of leaving the European Union is triggered.
During a tumultuous day's trading, the pound made a cautious bounce back as the Prime Minister allowed Tories to back a Labour call for "proper scrutiny" of the strategy in a bid to head off a potential backbench rebellion. Crucially, Labour's motion debated by MPs yesterday does not echo cross-party calls for a vote on the Brexit plan before Article 50 of the EU treaties is triggered by the end of March, and is not binding on ministers.
The PM was therefore able to allow disgruntled Tories, who want a vote, to back the Labour motion without rebelling, by voting for a Government amendment which simply adds caveats.
Despite Mrs May's insistence that her position has not changed, City analysts said the prospect of greater parliamentary scrutiny appeared to give sterling some respite.
But the pound's modest rally did later stumble as Brexit Secretary David Davis responded to Labour's motion in the House of Commons.
Mr Davis said he could not go into detail about the Government's negotiating strategy and would not reveal whether it was pursuing a "hard Brexit" strategy outside the single market.
Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, said: "In the face of US investors keen to buy the dollar as Donald Trump's presidential campaign disintegrates, and a speech from Brexit minister David Davis that erred on the 'hard' side of things, the pound managed to rise 0.7% against the greenback and 0.8% against the euro this Wednesday."
During the debate, more backbench Tory MPs joined the calls for greater clarity in order to protect British jobs, businesses and investment. Former minister Claire Perry said she was "extremely concerned" about the pound's overall poor performance over the last week and Chris Philp asked for as much clarity as possible over the likely future trading arrangements.
They spoke as Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve renewed his call for the Commons to be given a vote on the Brexit plan before Article 50 is invoked. But asked at Prime Minister's Questions if her concession to Tory MPs would mean a Commons vote before invoking Article 50, Mrs May replied: "The idea that Parliament somehow wasn't going to be able to discuss, debate, question issues around (Brexit) was frankly completely wrong.
"First of all the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has already made two statements in this House, I believe four hours of questions followed from those.
"A new select committee has been set up which crucially includes representatives from all parts of the United Kingdom, which will be looking at these issues. And only just over a week ago, I announced there would be a Great Repeal Bill in the next session of Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act.
"So Parliament's going to have every opportunity to debate this issue."