Government will try to overturn Brexit Bill amendments

The EU Withdrawal Bill, amended by the House of Lords, is to be debated at the Commons

June 11, 2018 10:28 pm | Updated December 01, 2021 06:14 am IST - London

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was on Monday expected to address a meeting of Conservative Party members, calling for unity on the Brexit Bill when Parliament votes later in the week.

Tuesday and Wednesday are set to be a crucial days for the British government’s Brexit strategy as the EU Withdrawal Bill, heavily amended in the House of Lords, is debated and voted on in a lengthy session of the House of Commons.

15 amendments

The government will be looking to overturn 15 amendments made by Members of the Lords. They include two crucial amendments: one requiring the government to continue negotiating British membership of the European customs union; and another giving MPs the power to stop Britain from exiting the EU without a deal with the EU.

The government has insisted it was necessary for Britain to leave the customs union and be able to negotiate its own trade deals with countries such as India.

It has also repeatedly rejected suggestions that a no-deal scenario had to be ruled out, arguing it would undermine the negotiation strategy.

With the government not having a majority, there is a risk that even a handful of Conservative MPs opposed to the government’s approach to Brexit could join the Labour Party in voting to keep the amendments. Over the weekend, the Labour party urged Conservatives to join them in backing some of the Lords amendments. “There is a real chance for Parliament to change the course of the Brexit negotiations and bring some order where there is real chaos,” Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Brexit, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

Call for unity

Over the weekend Amber Rudd — Britain’s Remain-supporting former Home Secretary and Iain Duncan Smith wrote a piece in T he Sunday Telegraph newspaper urging their colleagues in the Commons not to vote against the government, calling for “discipline” and “unity of purpose”.

The vote comes after another dramatic week for British politics amid heated internal political fighting over a customs backstop. Separately, a secret recording of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson branded concerns about the short and medium term impact of Brexit as “mumbo jumbo” and concerns around the disruptions at customs borders as “pure millennium bug stuff”.

Ironically, the British government’s weakness could end up being the factor that persuades Conservative MPs to avoid rebellion.

Over the weekend, British media reported that some Conservative rebels were considering backing the government, because a defeat at this stage could jeopardise the authority of Ms. May, and potentially propel a more hawkish Brexit-supporting politician to power.

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