MPs could be handed chance to force fresh Brexit referendum before vote on May's Brussels agreement

Government could let MPs vote on amendments before 'meaningful vote' on Brexit deal itself - raising prospect of conditions being added before agreement is approved 

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 14 November 2018 23:53
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Theresa May says cabinet has agreed draft Brexit withdrawal agreement

MPs could be given the opportunity to force a fresh referendum on Brexit before voting on Theresa May's proposed withdrawal agreement, it emerged last night, after the prime minister held a series of late-night conversations with opposition parties.

Sources who spoke with Ms May suggested they believed that ministers were heading towards agreeing that MPs will be able to vote on amendments to the government's motion before voting on the deal itself.

The significant development raises the prospect that Parliament could vote to approve the deal only if certain conditions are met - for example, that it is put to the public via a Final Say referendum.

While opposition figures who discussed the matter with the prime minister said they did not believe the exact arrangements for giving Parliament a "meaningful vote" on the Brexit deal had been fully confirmed, they suggested the government's "direction of travel" was to allow amendments to be voted on before the the vote on the deal itself.

One said: "They appear to be heading in the direction of allowing votes on amendments before the vote on the deal. That was their direction of travel."

The revelation came after Ms May held a lengthy meeting in her House of Commons office with DUP leader Arlene Foster, followed, at 10pm, by a 20-minute meeting with Jeremy Corbyn. She also spoke by phone with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, Wales' Carwyn Jones and Sinn Fein leaders.

The order of parliamentary votes on Ms May's proposed agreement has been a matter of fierce debate, with opposition parties insisting that amendments must be considered before the vote on the motion itself.

Some MPs believe this would give them the opportunity to force the government to meet certain conditions, either relating to the substance of the deal or to a fresh public vote.

The Commons procedure committee is considering the issue and is set to make a recommendation on the order in which votes should be held.

Opposition parties said they believed No 10 had recognised growing calls for MPs to be allowed to vote on the amendments first.

"They're coming under a lot of pressure from all sides", said one source. "They were clearly aware of that pressure."

A senior Labour source said Mr Corbyn had told the prime minister she must prioritise "full parliamentary sovereignty".

"Jeremy pressed the importance of full parliamentary sovereignty, including giving Parliament and committees sufficient time and information for serious scrutiny of the deal", they said.

Ms Sturgeon said Ms May had tried to persuade her that Scotland's "distinctive" interests had been protected in the proposed deal.

She said: "I pointed out that there isn't a single mention of Scotland in the agreement, that it disregards our interests, and puts Scotland at a serious competitive disadvantage."

Mr Jones said he had spoken to Ms May and "consistently made clear the need for full and unfettered access to [the] single market to protect [the] economy and Welsh jobs".

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