Hostile Tory rebels delay flagship Brexit bill

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No 10 has been forced to delay its flagship Brexit bill after Conservative rebels backed a series of hostile amendments.

Ministers had planned to push the EU Withdrawal Bill, which has passed its second reading in the House of Commons, through to committee stage next week.

But the timetable has slipped after the Tory whips decided they needed more time to strike compromises with rebel MPs in order to avoid a series of damaging defeats.

In total 300 amendments and 54 new clauses have been tabled to the bill, which transfers European law onto the domestic statute book after Brexit, underlining the resistance within the Commons from both opposition parties and some Conservative MPs.

A man dressed as King Henry VIII protests outside the Houses of Parliament as MP's debate the European Union Withdrawal Bill

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Thirteen amendments have enough support from Conservative MPs to overturn Theresa May’s working majority of 13, which is causing obvious headaches for chief whip Gavin Williamson.

Government insiders told Sky News that the volume of amendments that need to be considered and responded to means the legislation won’t be ready for line-by-line committee stage scrutiny next week.

Labour seized on the delay as evidence the Brexit bill “was not fit for purpose” and said Mrs May was potentially facing more than double the number of defeats on this bill than former prime minister John Major suffered at the hands of the Maastricht rebels.

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“The Tories’ repeal bill is simply not fit for purpose. It would give huge and unaccountable power to Ministers and puts vital rights and protections at risk,” Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News.

“Theresa May must start listening to the legitimate concerns of Labour and some of her own MPs and urgently change approach.”

Peers have also voiced their concerns over the legislation, warning last week in a House of Lords committee report that the repeal bill will give “excessively wide” powers to Government ministers after Brexit.

The bill will shift some 12,000 EU regulations onto the British statute book.

But the Government is facing serious challenges over its attempt to secure sweeping “Henry VIII powers”, which give ministers the right to make legislative changes to enact Brexit without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Ten Tory rebels are also backing an amendment demanding that the final Brexit deal be approved by parliamentary statute, which would give MPs the ability to propose changes to the deal: to date the Government has only agreed to give parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal.

Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, confirmed on Thursday there would be no debate in parliament on the EU Withdrawal bill.

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“What I can say to all members is of course, there are some 300 amendments and 53 new clauses being proposed, quite rightly, by members who have very real concerns about the Bill. Those are being closely evaluated.

“That is taking a bit of time to have proper, thoughtful, well considered responses to those. But we will of course be bringing forward.”

MPs are due to spend eight days debating the repeal bill at committee stage, which will then undergo further scrutiny in the Commons and the Lords before it is approved.

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Hostile Tory rebels delay flagship Brexit bill

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