For a second day running, the government yesterday defeated all amendments proposed to its Brexit bill. Most notably, MPs voted down Chris Leslie’s Labour amendment that would have stopped ministers striking a Brexit agreement until it had been passed by MPs and peers, by a comfortable majority of 33.
This was an issue the government worried would inspire a Tory rebellion. David Jones, the Brexit minister, attempted to placate Parliamentarians by announcing that MPs would have a say on the final draft Brexit agreement before it was voted upon by the European Parliament. While Keir Starmer was quick to hail this as a ‘huge and very important concession’, it turned out that the shadow Brexit secretary had actually mistaken crumbs for bread. If Parliament were to reject the draft deal, Jones confirmed that the UK would still leave the EU but ‘fall back on other arrangements’ – meaning Britain would in effect default to a hard Brexit with WTO trade rules. Still, it was enough to convince the majority of Tories, with just seven Conservative MPs voting in favour of the amendment.
Today the government hopes to stave off another rebellion on the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. It’s a contentious issue for Conservatives, with many Tory Brexiteers feeling honour-bound by Vote Leave’s promise that EU nationals living in the UK would have their status here guaranteed. However, No 10 hope that a letter from the Home Secretary to colleagues suggesting there will be no change to the status of EU nationals without Parliament’s approval will be enough to convince MPs to vote down the amendment. Should they succeed and get a clean bill out of the Commons then the Lords will be much more wary about amending it themselves.