Theresa May has seen off a Commons rebellion on her flagship Brexit bill after a last-minute concession to pro-EU MPs.
MPs voted by 319 to 303 to reject a House of Lords amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that would have ensured the Commons would have the chance to block a “no deal” Brexit.
The legislation must now go back to the Upper House in the latest stage of “parliamentary ping-pong”, but the MPs vote essentially means Mrs May has won the battle over a bill which is vital to ensure a smooth withdrawal from the EU.
In dramatic scenes at Westminster, MPs were told shortly before the key vote an official ministerial statement will be issued on Thursday making clear it is ultimately for Speaker John Bercow to decide whether they get a “meaningful vote” on a no-deal withdrawal from the EU.
Hilary Benn – This is not some amendment on one bill.. it is the most important decision our country has faced in generations. If we fall off the edge of a cliff & future generations look at use & say what did you do at that moment… #StopBrexit #FBPE #EUwithdrawalbill pic.twitter.com/6fhGIOk717
— Haggis_UK – #FBPE 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK) 20 June 2018
The concession was accepted by leading pro-EU Tory Dominic Grieve, who was greeted with jeers of “shame” from the opposition benches when he declared he would back the Government.
But it was dismissed as a “fudge” by Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon and described as “meaningless” by Labour whips.
Mr Grieve had tabled an amendment to the bill, requiring MPs to be given the opportunity to approve or reject the Government’s plans for the next steps in the case that no agreement can be reached with Brussels by Brexit Day in March next year.
With the Government instead offering only an unamendable “neutral motion” allowing MPs to take note of the situation, Mrs May was thought to be facing a knife-edge vote.