David Davis under fire over pledge for MPs’ vote on Brexit deal

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The Government appears to have backed down amid the threat of a Tory rebellion – but opposition to its key legislation remains.

David Davis

The Government has bolstered its commitment for Parliament to have the final say on a Brexit deal – but immediately faced a backlash for not guarding against the UK leaving the EU without an agreement.

Brexit Secretary David Davis unveiled plans for the UK’s divorce deal to be written into law, meaning both MPs and peers will be afforded a vote on the agreement between London and Brussels.

The proposed Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill will cover issues such as an agreement on citizens’ rights, the UK’s financial settlement and the details of a transitional period.

Mr Davis told MPs: “I can now confirm that once we have reached an agreement we will bring forward a specific piece of primary legislation to implement the agreement.

“This confirms that the major policy set out in the withdrawal agreement will be directly implemented into UK law by primary legislation, not by secondary legislation with the Withdrawal Bill.

“This also means that Parliament will be given time to debate, scrutinise and vote on the final agreement we strike with the EU.

“This agreement will only hold if Parliament approves it.”

The move comes ahead of a pivotal week for the Government’s other key Brexit legislation, with more than 400 amendments tabled to the EU Withdrawal Bill – planned to convert EU law into UK law before March 2019 – ahead of its return to the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Mr Davis’s announcement appears to be a concession to pro-Remain Tories amid the threat of a rebellion causing a Government defeat.

Conservative backbenchers previously warned they were ready to support an amendment demanding the UK’s divorce deal is approved by an Act of Parliament.

Former attorney-general Dominic Grieve, who brought the amendment, has revealed he and other Conservative MPs have recently been in talks with Downing Street over the legislation.

But the Government’s beefed-up promise for a parliamentary vote did not dispel concerns surrounding the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Mr Davis confirmed MPs and peers will be given a take-it-or-leave-it choice on the Brexit deal, as he explained if Parliament rejects a withdrawal agreement, Britain will still leave the EU.


Tory backbencher Heidi Allen branded Mr Davis’s plan “pointless” as she also highlighted the Government’s intention to alter legislation to state Britain’s membership of the EU will formally end at 11pm on 29 March, 2019.

She posted on Twitter: “Pointless if we have enshrined a drop dead date in the Bill, & get a deal at 11th hour! There’d be no time!

“And also offers no safeguard if no deal is reached. Unacceptable.”

Fellow Conservative MP Antoinette Sandbach similarly labelled the Government’s promise “meaningless” should Brexit talks slip beyond March 2019.

Meanwhile, former Tory constitution minister John Penrose welcomed the Government’s stronger pledge on a parliamentary vote, but expressed continuing concerns over the use of so-called “Henry VIII powers” as provided by the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer branded Mr Davis’s actions “a significant climbdown from a weak Government on the verge of defeat”.

“With less than 24 hours before they had to defend their flawed bill to Parliament they have finally backed down,” he said.

“However, like everything with this Government the devil will be in the detail.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said a parliamentary vote “simply isn’t good enough” as he repeated his party’s call for a second EU referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal.

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