Brexit top of the agenda as Theresa May faces quiz by Commons committee


Theresa May faces a barrage of Brexit questions as the Prime Minister appears before a powerful Commons committee while the Government hopes to avoid fresh defeats on key EU withdrawal legislation.

Mrs May is being quizzed by the Liaison Committee, which is made up of the chairmen and chairwomen of select committees, on Wednesday for the first time since the general election, with Brexit preparations dominating the agenda.

Liaison Committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston, who was one of the Tory rebels that inflicted a humiliating Commons defeat on the Government over Brexit plans last week, said EU withdrawal negotiations would feature prominently during the encounter after Brussels agreed to trigger trade talks.

Dr Wollaston said: "Given that this session follows such a significant EU Council meeting and recent events in Parliament, on this occasion we will start with a focus on Brexit negotiations and transitionary arrangements."

The MP was among 11 Tory rebels who backed an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which guarantees Parliament a "meaningful" vote on any Brexit deal.

The amendment requires any withdrawal deal to be approved by a separate Act of Parliament before it could be implemented.

With the landmark Bill returning to the Commons on Wednesday, the Government is seeking to avoid a second serious defeat over the legislation.

Tory rebels have signalled they may back away from a rejection of plans to write the Brexit date of March 29 2019, into law in favour of a compromise.

Sources say the Government is "looking closely" at an amendment allowing the date to be included in legislation, but with flexibility to change it if negotiations with Brussels look set to stretch beyond March 2019.

Theresa May is being quizzed by the Liaison Committee for the first time since the general election (Lauren Hurley/PA)
Theresa May is being quizzed by the Liaison Committee for the first time since the general election (Lauren Hurley/PA)

The Liaison Committee is also planning to question the PM on a range of issues from health funding to combating sexual harassment.

Dr Wollaston said: "The committee will also be asking about sustainable long-term funding for health and social care and explore progress since the Prime Minister's pledge on the steps of Downing Street to fight burning injustices.

"Whilst making sure that Parliament gets its own house in order when it comes to tackling sexual harassment, we must not lose sight of the impact of this in many different workplaces and we plan to raise this with the Prime Minister to ask about her plans."