Brexit Secretary David Davis: Brexit Bill to leave EU should remain unchanged

Tareq Haddad
House of lords

The Brexit Secretary David Davis has urged MPs to leave the bill for exiting the European Union unchanged when it returns to the House of Commons for further debate on Monday (13 March).

The bill that allows Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50 originally breezed through the chamber by 494 votes to 122, but after it was sent to the House of Lords, it will return to the Commons with two amendments.

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Peers want to secure the rights of EU nationals in the UK and want MPs to have a "meaningful vote" on the final outcome of negotiations. However, Davis is calling on MPs to reject those changes.

Writing in The Telegraph on Sunday (12 March), Davis argued that putting such measures into law at this stage would leave May having to negotiate with "one arm behind her back".

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"There will be many opportunities for Parliament to debate the ins and outs of our negotiation of a new partnership with the EU, and influence the outcome," he said. "But attaching conditions to a bill that simply allows the prime minister to start the process of implementing the referendum result is emphatically not the way to do it."

If MPs pass the bill in its original form, May could formally notify the EU of the UK's intention to leave by Tuesday.

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However, with only a small majority in the Commons, there is no guarantee that pro-Remain Conservatives will not join forces with opposition parties and rebel against the government.

Tory whips have become so concerned about such a possibility that ministers have been forced to cancel foreign trips to ensure they are in Parliament.

One Conservative MP who planned to rebel against the government told The Telegraph that claims that amendments to the Brexit bill would undermine May's negotiating hand are "absolute rubbish".

"What we will not have is this ideological claptrap for hard Brexiteers who want take us out of the EU without a deal," the MP said.

Labour MPs have indicated they would back the Lords' amendments. However, it is not yet clear if that is the position of Jeremy Corbyn and his shadow cabinet.

In a letter sent to the prime minister on Friday, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and Labour's leader in the Lords Angela Smith urged May to "reflect and reconsider on the overwhelming case to act on these two specific issues as this is the final opportunity to put vital guarantees and protections into legislation".

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