Theresa May’s Government has been defeated over key Brexit legislation despite a last-ditch attempt to quash a Tory rebellion.
MPs approved an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which guarantees Parliament a “meaningful” vote on any Brexit deal by 309 votes to 305, majority four.
There were cheers in the chamber when the result of the vote became clear.
Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve led the rebellion via his amendment seven, which would require any Brexit deal to be approved by a separate act of Parliament before it could be implemented.
He warned ministers they had “run out of road” and drew upon Winston Churchill’s spirit as he said he intended to put “country before his party”.
Minutes before the vote, Justice minister Dominic Raab sought to appease would-be rebels by saying the Government would rewrite the Bill to guarantee concessions it had offered but was faced with shouts of “too late” by some MPs on his side.
Mr Raab promised fresh limits on powers contained in the Bill, explaining that no statutory instrument approved under the controversial clause nine would take effect until Parliament had voted on Britain’s final deal with the bloc. Clause nine provides the Government with the power to use secondary legislation to implement any Brexit deal – which would require less scrutiny from MPs.
Mr Raab later told the Commons: “Having taken advice, and in particular having listened very carefully to the contributions by (Mr Grieve and Tory former minister Sir Oliver Letwin), the Government is willing – reflecting the mood of the House – to return at report stage with an amendment on the face of the Bill, making clear the undertaking and assurance that I gave in my speech that statutory instruments under clause nine will not enter into force until we’ve had a meaningful vote in Parliament.”
But Tory MP Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) labelled the Bill’s powers as “sweeping”, adding: “I’m afraid I’m not willing to give away parliamentary sovereignty that I exercise on behalf of my constituents for some residual control to the executive.
“If the minister needs that power in relation to the withdrawal bill he needs to come back to this House and ask for it. “I found his explanation utterly unconvincing at the despatch box.”
A Labour amendment, seeking to remove the capacity of ministers to modify and amend the Act via delegated powers, was defeated by 316 votes to 297 – majority 19.