LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May looked set to win a crucial Brexit vote in parliament on Wednesday, keeping her deeply divided government’s plans to end Britain’s more than 40 years of partnership with the European Union on track.
After pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve said he would support the government’s proposal for a “meaningful vote” for parliament on any Brexit deal, a potential rebellion that could have further undermined May’s authority looked to have been quashed. [nS8N1PH01W]
May adopted a high-risk strategy by directly facing off with rebels in her Conservative Party, and it seemed to pay off. One lawmaker said May had had no option but to take on the rebels or risk their rebellion growing as she cuts ties with the EU.
But the battle may be a taste of things to come.
May needs to get several bills through parliament to prepare Britain for life outside the EU, a momentous change to its trading and political relationships after 45 years in the bloc.
Some of her opponents on Brexit may simply have decided to keep their powder dry for later fights on issues such as future trading ties with the bloc before Britain’s scheduled departure in March next year.
“I am prepared to accept the government’s difficulty and in the circumstances to accept the form of amendment it wants,” Grieve told MPs, to sighs from opposition Labour Party members who had hoped to defeat the government.
Grieve had led the potential rebellion over May’s proposal — to offer parliament a statement setting out what she will do if she fails to negotiate an agreement with the EU, or if MPs reject any deal she returns with.
He had argued that the promise did not hand parliament enough control to prevent the “chaos” that could follow Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.
He seemed to have won over enough fellow Conservatives to put the minority government in danger of losing the vote.
But the government tried to ease Grieve’s and others’ concerns in a statement that said it was up to the parliamentary speaker to grant MPs greater influence over the future action of ministers if there was no deal. [nS8N1PH01U]
May looked set to enjoy a rare victory in a parliament that is stacked against her since she lost her party’s majority at an ill-judged election last year.
But the vote may be a taste of what is to come for May. She needs to drive several bills through parliament preparing Britain for life outside the bloc, and some MPs may flex their muscles on other issues, such as future trade arrangements.
Additional reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Kevin Liffey