- Theresa May is prepared to stop her attempt to enshrine the Brexit date in law.
- The prime minister has been under pressure to withdraw the amendment after about 20 Conservative MPs said they would vote against it.
- Brexit Secretary David Davis says part of the withdrawal bill “will have to be reviewed undoubtedly.”
LONDON – Theresa May is preparing to surrender her attempt to enshrine the day that Britain leaves the European Union after ministers hinted that the plan could be ditched.
The prime minister announced last Friday that the government would be supporting an amendment to the withdrawal bill to make March 29, 2017, legally the date that Brexit happens.
However, she has been forced to rethink after up to 20 Conservative MPs indicated that they would vote against it.
Brexit Secretary David Davis told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme on Friday morning: “The whole of the [Brexit withdrawal] bill is going to be debated in the house and there are parts of it that will have be reviewed undoubtedly.”
Conservative rebels have argued that making the Brexit date binding could tie the hands of British negotiators in Brexit talks if the negotiations had to be extended by any amount. If the group voted against the government, the amendment would likely be defeated.
The group of 20 Tory MPs were called “Brexit mutineers” by the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, which led to the newspaper being accused of “blatant bullying” by one of the group, former minister Anna Soubry.
MPs have been debating amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill this week, as the legislation is at committee stage in the House of Commons.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said in the House of Commons that he would not have his arm twisted by Tory whips, after calling the Brexit day amendment mad.
Justice Secretary David Lidington said on Thursday that the amendment could be withdrawn. He said: “[It’s] hypothetical but, as the prime minister said, there are various constructive suggestions that have been made during the committee debates about how the bill might be improved and obviously we’ll listen to ideas coming from colleagues across the House during the bill’s progress.
“All that clause was designed to do was to clarify and put beyond doubt what was already inherent in Article 50.”
Following the castigation of potential Conservative rebels as “mutineers” at least five more supporters were reported to be added to the original group of 15, taking the number of votes against the government to over 20.