Grieve denies Tory Brexit rebels could bring down Government
The former attorney general says he hopes a ‘sensible compromise’ is still possible ahead of a crucial Commons vote.
The leader of the pro-EU Tory rebels has denied the Government will fall if it suffers a defeat in the Commons on its flagship Brexit bill.
Ministers face another showdown with their critics in the Commons after the House of Lords on Monday again backed an amendment giving MPs a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.
The vote came after the rebels – led by former attorney general Dominic Grieve – accused ministers of reneging on measures which they believed had been agreed to stave off a rebellion last week.
The idea that the Government is going to be endangered by this difference of view within the House of Commons which might lead to its defeat is complete nonsense Dominic Grieve
There will now be another vote on Wednesday after the Lords backed an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, tabled by Viscount Hailsham, which would require the Government to allow MPs to vote on how it would proceed in the absence of a Brexit deal by January 21 next year.
Mr Grieve said on Tuesday that he still hoped it would be possible to come to a “sensible compromise” that would address the concerns of both sides.
However, he dismissed suggestions that the rebels would bring down the Government if it was defeated.
“That is complete nonsense. This is the end stage of the detailed consideration of a piece of legislation,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“Whichever way the vote ultimately goes, the idea that the Government is going to be endangered by this difference of view within the House of Commons which might lead to its defeat is complete nonsense.”
Asked whether he still trusted Theresa May, Mr Grieve said: “I am very conscious that the Prime Minister is in great difficulty. I have known her for very many years. I have a great understanding of some of the problems she faces.
“I would be very happy if we can resolve this in a way which makes me feel that the trust I always try to place in the Prime Minister is honoured.”
Mrs May on Monday warned against any moves to “tie her hands” during negotiations with Brussels, saying that Parliament must not be able to “overturn the will of the British people”.
She insisted she had been listening to the concerns of critics but said the legislation must not restrict her freedom in talks with Brussels.
Under Government plans, if MPs reject the agreement reached by Mrs May with Brussels, or if no deal has been obtained by January 21, Parliament will be offered the opportunity to vote on a “neutral motion” stating it has considered a minister’s statement on the issue.
Crucially, the motion will be unamendable, meaning MPs cannot insert a requirement for Mrs May to go back to the negotiating table, extend the Brexit transition or revoke the UK’s withdrawal under Article 50.
The Hailsham amendment, dubbed “Grieve 2” by the peer, was tabled after Mr Grieve warned the Tory rebels could “collapse” the Government if they disagreed with the final outcome of withdrawal talks.
Mr Grieve insisted rebels would only accept a “meaningful vote” and not the “slavery clause” the Government was offering.
The Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) said that it “cannot accept” the amendment which was passed by a majority of 119 and would seek to overturn it when it returns to the Commons on Wednesday.
A DExEU spokesman said: “Agreeing to amendable motions would allow Parliament to direct Government on its approach to exiting the EU and so does not meet the reasonable tests set out by the Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary last week.”
Leading backbencher Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said that the meaningful vote was being used to “obstruct Brexit” and “thwart the referendum result”.
Lord Hailsham said that Mr Grieve, who watched the Brexit Bill debate at the bar of the Lords, believed he had made an agreement with the Solicitor General last week but it appeared “senior ministers” had objected to it and it had now been “repudiated”.
“The Government is seeking to make the promised meaningful vote impossible and that is an act of commission contrary to what ministers have promised,” he said.