Theresa May wins Brexit blueprint vote as United Kingdom parties splinter

By Elizabeth Piper and William James

By Elizabeth Piper and William James

The Prime Minister was forced to mollify different parts of her party - including those arch Brexiteers who would rather the United Kingdom crashed out of the European Union with no deal than the government agree to a soft Brexit, as well as rebellious Conservative MPs who want the public to have another vote on what Brexit will look like.

Facing the prospect of losing a vote on a crucial amendment to the government's flagship Brexit legislation - which was created to empower parliament to vote down the final deal without risking a "no-deal" exit from the bloc - ministers intervened with a concession at the 11th hour even as MPs were wrapping up debate on the controversial measure. The blunt reality is that the government's hard position means they say one thing to one group and one thing to another.

"The amendment passed in the Lords and accepted today by the Government states that there can be no physical infrastructure introduced between Northern Ireland and the Republic following exit day, and that nothing in the act can diminish full North-South cooperation".

Meanwhile, Remain-backing Labour MPs made passionate arguments for Britain to stay in the EEA, telling the Commons it would save the economy from Brexit.

Earlier in the House of Commons the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions descended into chaos when the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) was ordered by Speaker John Bercow to leave the chamber after a row erupted.

The Brexit talks are progressing painfully slowly, but both sides still hope to reach a deal in October ahead of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union in March 2019.

However, May's pro-European lawmakers warned that they could yet rebel if she backtracks on promises to give parliament a greater say in the final withdrawal deal.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland later said leaving with a no deal and trading under World Trade Organisation rules would be inconsistent with Government policy on the Northern Ireland border.

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It was always going to be a tough couple of days in the House of Commons for Theresa May's government and her Brexit strategy. It would also give hard Brexiteers the chance to "scupper a good deal", she claimed.

Pro-European Conservative, Nicky Morgan, told the BBC that May understands that "parliament wants to have a real say, in all circumstances". She had nearly lost a general election she never needed to call, squandering her Conservative Party's overall majority and forcing her to rely on the support of the smaller Democratic Unionist Party.

The now former junior shadow minister and MP for Crewe and Nantwich tweeted that she was "tired of being told that I am blocking Brexit by criticising the government's approach to negotiations".

She added: "I can not countenance parliament being able to overturn the will of the British people".

Just three Conservative MPs voted in favour of the Lords amendment, arch-Remainers Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry.

They also voted against remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA), which offers tariff-free access to the EU's single market in return for accepting free movement of people, goods, services and capital, by 327 to 126.

He blamed Labour for the lack of debating time, saying there would have been "much, much more time" if Jeremy Corbyn's party had not pushed for so many votes to be held.

The concession came after intensive horse-trading on the floor of the House of Commons, with chief whip Julian Smith shuttling between Tory backbenchers during debate on Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Blackford complained that not enough time had been allowed to discuss the impact of Brexit on Scotland's devolved government during Tuesday's marathon debate on the Brexit Withdrawal Bill.

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