Government should back down on plans to enshrine Brexit date, says rebel Grieve


Tory rebel leader Dominic Grieve has warned Theresa May she faces another major Brexit defeat unless she backs down on plans to enshrine the date of Britain's exit from the European Union in law.

The former attorney general said he was "sure" the Government will be defeated on its amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which spells out that the UK's membership of the union will end at 11pm GMT, midnight in Brussels, on March 29 2019.

He led a Tory rebellion which helped inflict an embarrassing defeat on the Prime Minister on Wednesday, with MPs backing his amendment to ensure a "meaningful vote" on the final withdrawal deal.

Result of the House of Commons vote on amendment 7 to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.
(PA Graphics)

And Mr Grieve, who made clear that anger from colleagues would not deter him, warned Mrs May she could face further humiliation unless she withdraws the amendment on the Brexit date, due to be voted on next Wednesday.

He told BBC Newsnight: "I hope very much it won't be necessary because if the Government comes back with that date I'm sure the Government wil be defeated and I have no desire to defeat the Government or be involved in the Government's defeat a second time.

"I've been in Parliament for 20 years and apart from HS2 I don't think I've ever rebelled before."

He went on: "Not only am I open to negotiation, my whole life is negotiation.

"I tabled these amendments over a month ago, I've had a very sensible dialogue with Government ministers about what their purpose is, sometimes probing, sometimes teasing out, sometimes trying to point out flaws.

"And so far, until this evening, we'd always managed sensible outcomes which I thought improved the legislation and kept everybody broadly happy.

Incredibly tense atmosphere in the Commons as Tory rebellion to ensure a Brexit "meaningful vote" appears to gather pace minutes before MP troop through the voting lobbies. Intense conversations all over the chamber.

-- Arj Singh (@singharj) December 13, 2017

"I'm sorry that the negotiations foundered, it was a spectacular foundering, I can't deny that ... but there appears to have been a complete breakdown within Government as to how to answer perfectly legitimate points.

"It is slightly worrying but I've no doubt people will learn from the experience."

Mr Grieve also said he would not be affected by criticism from fellow Tories.

"I'm not very concerned about knives being out for me," he said. "I'm in Parliament to do my duty by my constituents and by my country."

He added: "I'm sorry to hear if colleagues think so ill of me but it's not going to affect what I do one jot."