Facing Tory mutiny, May carves out compromise as UK heads toward Brexit

UPDATE — 6/20, 11:31 a.m. EDT: A subsequent vote in the House of Commons to adopt a Lords’ amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill was rejected in close vote Wednesday, the terms of which would require MPs to approve conditions set by Prime Minister Theresa May’s if a Brexit deal with the EU is not reached by Jan. 21, 2019.

Under current law, MPs only have the authority to acknowledge terms set forth by the prime minister if such a scenario should arise. According to the EU, the parties are most divided on the issue of resolving the border between Northern and Southern Ireland when the U.K. officially withdraws.

 

In a last-minute deal with pro-European Union (EU) Conservative Party members of Parliament (MPs), British Prime Minister Theresa May has avoided a mutiny by offering concessions which will limit her power to steer the UK’s departure from the European economic bloc.

Following a June 23, 2016, Brexit vote and a transition period negotiating with EU officials, the UK is scheduled to officially quit the economic alliance on March 29, 2019, although a full break with the economic bloc is not expected until at least the end of 2020.

At the center of controversy is the EU Withdrawal Bill passed by the House of Lords in the month of May giving Parliament the power to influence Brexit events if the circumstance arose Ms. May was unable to secure a Brexit deal prior to the 2019 deadline.

Upon arrival in the House of Commons, the legislation was met with fierce resistance from MPs, who demanded its defeat and inspired the resignation of a member of May’s cabinet, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Phillip Lee.

The House of Lords’ measure was defeated 325–298.  Also foiled by the Commons was another measure which would allowed the U.K. to remain in the European Economic Area.

Following the Lords’ bills being turned away, pro-EU Tory members led by MP Dominic Grieve threatened rebellion and offered a compromise which would have required May to seek parliamentary approval for her Brexit plans and adhere to a November deadline set by MPs.

In a face-to-face meeting with 17 rebelling Tory MPs, May is said to have accepted defeat and agreed to surrender some power of approval to MPs.  Anti-Brexit MPs have set a November 30 target date for May to emerge with a plan to present to the House.

“Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat Theresa May has been forced to enter negotiations with her backbenchers and offer a so-called concession.  We will wait and see the details of this concession and will hold ministers to account to ensure it lives up to the promises they have made to parliament,” said Brexit Shadow Secretary Keir Starmer.

Ms. May has repeatedly stated to successfully extract the U.K. from the EU, she must be given extraordinary latitude, but has emphasized Parliament will retain voting power in the House of Commons.

Pro-Brexit Tory MPs have vowed to revive the House of Lords’ bill with Mr. Grieve’s amendments if May does not see through commitments made to opposing parliament members.

 

[The Independent] [Wall Street Journal] [BBC] [Photo courtesy Andy Rain/EPA via Politico]