Groundhog Day for May as UK Brexit bill faces new challenge

Theresa May Dominic Grieve

GETTY PATheresa May faces a critical 24 hours after Lords backed the amendment tabled by Dominic Grieve

After last-minute concessions were given to rebel Tory MPs yet again by Theresa May, the much-debated Brexit bill has passed through parliament - despite fears of opposition from the House of Lords and pro-EU MPs.

The House of Commons is debating a proposal Wednesday that would make the government get Parliament's approval before agreeing to a final divorce deal with the EU.

Well, although this stuff is complex, arcane and highly technical, the final shape of the Withdrawal Bill will determine the route we choose to take out of the European Union.

"Therefore, in case of any doubt, the chances of the United Kingdom not to leave the European Union are now zero", Fox said.

"The goal of the latest Grieve ruse is to give parliament the power to delay or stop Brexit", he said.

Pro-EU legislators accuse the government of going back on its word.

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Mr Grieve had tabled an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which would have required MPs to be given the chance to approve or reject the government's next steps on Brexit in the event that no agreement was reached by Brexit Day in March 2019.

One Labour MP said she had to discharge herself from hospital and delay a possible operation to take part in the Brexit showdown on a "meaningful vote", while dosed up on morphine.

Appalling mixed metaphors aside, most of the proceedings was taken up with very boring perorations in the House on Brexit as national disaster, catastrophe and apocalypse all rolled into one.

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg told Sky News Mrs May would now attend a summit of European Union leaders next week "with full strength, with the ability to say the legislation to leave the European Union, under EU law and United Kingdom law, is now fully in place".

Asked whether he still trusted Theresa May, Mr Grieve said: "I am very conscious that the Prime Minister is in great difficulty".

In dramatic scenes at Westminster, MPs were told shortly before the key vote an official ministerial statement will be issued on Thursday making clear it is ultimately for Speaker John Bercow to decide whether they get a "meaningful vote" on a no-deal withdrawal from the EU.

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"The vote will be tight", a government source told AFP.

"I believe our role now is to accept their view as expressed in a vote a few hours ago", she said.

The vote result suggests that they have the hypothetical numbers, but their critics, and their internal opponents in the Tory party would question if they really have the guts.

As a compromise, he made a written statement confirming that MPs would have an opportunity to hold the government to account (roughly mirroring the "personal assurances" compromise that emerged last week). The government says this vote should be "on neutral terms", with MPs simply noting what has been said.

Under the convention, MPs who are too ill to make their way through the voting lobbies can be "nodded through" from an ambulance or vehicle parked in the parliamentary courtyard.

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