Key Tory Brexit rebel hails government climbdown to give MPs a vote if there is 'no deal'

Neil Carmichael suggests the rebellion is off - but Labour insists the 'concession' given during debate on the Article 50 Bill is virtually worthless

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 07 February 2017 17:01
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Neil Carmichael
Neil Carmichael

A key Conservative rebel has hailed a Government climbdown to give MPs a decisive vote if there is no Brexit deal – even as Labour insisted it was virtually worthless.

Neil Carmichael told The Independent he was delighted that the vote will now be staged before the European Parliament has its say on the outcome of the negotiations, suggesting a threatened revolt is off.

Crucially, he argued ministers were also guaranteeing a vote even if Theresa May emerges from the Article 50 talks with no deal at all, the key demand of the rebels.

But Labour, which initially welcomed the “important concession”, quickly decided it fell far short of the “meaningful vote” it is demanding.

Angry Labour MPs turned on Brexit minister David Jones after it quickly emerged that the Commons would still be left with a ‘take it or leave it’ choice, in 2019.

To ‘leave it’ would mean Britain crashing out of the EU with no agreement at all – risking an economic slump, they argued

However, Mr Carmichael signalled that the threatened Conservative revolt – in a vote around 6pm tonight – had been averted by Mr Jones’ concession.

Mr Carmichael said: “I’m pleased the minister has informed the Commons that there will be a meaningful vote at the end of the negotiations – and in a timely manner.

“This is a big step in the right direction and I’m confident we will be given further clarification during the course of the afternoon.”

The key shift, Mr Carmichael argued - strongly disputed by Labour - was an agreement that MPs will be given a vote even if the Prime Minister fails to strike a deal, a highly-plausible scenario, given the tight timetable.

Many observers believe Ms May would be forced to call a general election in those circumstances, rather than carry out her threat to pull out of the EU regardless.

However, under questioning by Labour MPs, Mr Jones confirmed the Government’s determination to complete Brexit even if the Commons rejected her deal – or lack of a deal.

MPs would have to “accept the deal that the Government will have achieved”, because there was no question of a veto.

Mr Jones said: “Frankly, that is the choice that the House will have to make – that’s the most meaningful vote that the House can imagine.”

“To send the Government back to the European Union to say it wants to negotiate further would be seized upon as a sign of weakness so, therefore, I can’t agree with it at all.”

Another possible Tory rebel, Anna Soubry, appeared to side with Labour in arguing Mr Jones had not given a satisfactory concession.

She told a Brexit-supporting MP: “We want the same vote - the sovereignty of this place - in the event of no deal being struck by the Government despite their finest efforts.”

At the start of the debate, Mr Jones told MPs: “We intend that the vote will cover not only the withdrawal arrangements, but also the future relationship with the European Union.

“I can confirm that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded

“And we expect and intend that this will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.”

The phrase “future relationship with the European Union” was interpreted to mean a proposed new trade deal, as well as the exit terms.

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