So what exactly did Theresa May agree to offer the potential Tory rebels only minutes before voting started yesterday afternoon to avert defeat on the EU withdrawal bill, and on the amendment that the Commons should be able to say what must happen next if the withdrawal agreement gets rejected by MPs? It was not clear last night, and, with both sides giving interviews this morning, it is increasingly obvious that there is something of a perception gap as to what is on offer.
Nicky Morgan, one of the potential Tory rebels, told the Today programme:
What was agreed was the prime minister understood that parliament wants to have a real say, in all circumstances, in relation to what’s going to happen in the Brexit deal …
It was the prime minister’s personal assurance that was very important to us. And she has given us that, and those discussions on how we are going to build on the amendment that has been approved by the House of Commons will start today.
But Robert Buckland, the solicitor general who first mentioned a concession during the debate yesterday, told the Today programme that the government would not let parliament tell the government how to conduct the Brexit negotiations – despite this being one of the elements in what the rebels were demanding. He said:
I have a problem, both constitutionally and politically, with the concept of a direction being given by parliament …
It’s important, I think, to reiterate the point that was made by David Davis, and others, yesterday, that the concept of directing the government to do something if there was no deal, I think is not something that is acceptable.
I think that far too much echoes what the Lords suggested in their amendment. It would tie the hands of the government in a way that I think could make no deal more likely. So, let’s not go down that road
Not for the first time, the May-engineered Brexit compromise has failed to produce a stable solution acceptable to both sides. We could end up with another rebellion when this amendment comes back to the Commons, probably next week. This is what Heidi Allen, another of the potential Tory rebels, told Sky:
If [the Grieve amendment does not get incorporated into the bill by the government in some form or another], then when [the bill] comes back, if it is not improved, we will vote against the government.
We have got another six-hour debate on the EU withdrawal bill today, followed by a long series of votes. We are not expecting any government defeats, but MPs will vote on an amendment saying the UK should stay in the EEA (European Economic Area), and dozens of Labour MPs are expected to back this despite being under orders to abstain.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: Michael Gove, the environment secretary, gives evidence to the Commons environment committee
10.30am: John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, speaks at TheCityUK conference.
12pm: Theresa May faces Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.
Around 1pm: MPs resume their debate on the Lords amendments to the EU withdrawal bill. Voting will start six hours after the debate begins and, with multiple votes, the process could take around two hours.
2.30pm: May hosts a tech round table at Downing Street.
2.30pm: John Glen, a Treasury minister, gives evidence to the European scrutiny committee about Brexit.
5.30pm: Lord Malloch-Brown, chair of the anti-Brexit group Best for Britain, gives a speech in Oxford.
I will be focusing mostly on the EU withdrawal bill debate this afternoon but I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to post a summary at the end of the day.
You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here.
If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
I try to monitor the comments BTL but normally I find it impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer direct questions, although sometimes I miss them or don’t have time.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter.