Brexit: Parliament must get vote on EU negotiations plan, senior Labour MP says

Hilary Benn, the new chairman of the Commons Brexit committee, said MPs should be able to tell ministers to think again about Brexit terms

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Indy Politics

A senior Labour MP has called for Parliament to have the right to send back the Government’s Brexit plans as inadequate – before any vote on starting Britain’s EU exit.

Hilary Benn, the new chairman of the Commons Brexit committee, said MPs should be able to tell ministers to “change this or do that” before a decision on triggering Article 50.

Mr Benn said such a timetable would prevent critics claiming some MPs were attempting to block Brexit, because it would not be a vote on whether to invoke the key article – and start withdrawal.

He said: “It’s not a vote on Article 50 – I think Parliament would seek to have a vote on the negotiating plan, because they are two different things.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Benn added: “The Government might need to come back and say ‘alright, we have had a think about it and we are going to change this or do that’."

The call  from the MP now in charge of scrutinising Brexit will infuriate Theresa May, who has insisted Parliament will not be given either a vote or a “running commentary” on her exit strategy.

It underlines what MPs believe is their growing strength in the tussle to influence that strategy – even before the High Court ruling on whether the Government can legally act alone on Article 50.

Asked if the Prime Minister would have to call a general election if MPs vetoed her negotiating plan, Mr Benn said that was “not in the hands of me or the select committee".

He also demanded that the Government announce whether it will seek a transitional arrangement for businesses after Brexit, if no trade deal can be thrashed out by the date of departure.

Last week, Brexit Secretary David Davis became the first cabinet minister to admit that British companies face a damaging “cliff edge” of high tariffs if a new deal cannot be struck in time.

Mr Benn said: “The importance of a transitional arrangement is it would offer some confidence to business.”

Away from economics, other key issues included whether Britain will remain a member of Europol, or continue to enforce the EU-wide arrest warrant, he said.

Ministers must decide by the end of this year whether to accept a new, expanded remit for Europol agreed by the 28 member states after the Paris and Brussels terror attacks.

If they do, the UK police and intelligence services – which strongly favour the move – will continue to have full access to the law enforcement agency’s databases and services.

However, it would anger some Brexit-supporting Tory MPs, because the UK would have to pay budget contributions to the EU and accept a role for the European Court of Justice in resolving disputes.

Many MPs are demanding a full Commons debate and vote on Europol within the next month, as the first big test of what Brexit means.

Asked about Mr Benn’s demands, Transport Secretary and Brexit supporter Chris Grayling repeated that the Government would not be “laying all its cards on the table”.

He told Mr Marr: “We will be informing Parliament as much as we can, but the national interest has to come first.”