United Kingdom justice minister resigns ahead of key Brexit debate

Sergio Conner
June 13, 2018

His resignation came hours before British Prime Minister Theresa May faces crunch votes in parliament and a potential showdown with pro-EU rebels in her ruling party over whether parliament can prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Parliament will vote Tuesday on a key piece of legislation, the E.U. Withdrawal bill, that would transfer European Union laws now on British books into British law after Brexit.

The Lords amendment on a "meaningful vote" for MPs was defeated in the Commons by 324 to 298.

However, ministers made a last minute offer to enter talks about accepting the bulk of an alternative rebel amendment which would give MPs more limited powers to prevent Britain from crashing out of the European Union without a deal.

In a concession, the government promised that lawmakers would have a say on what to do next if there is no agreement with the European Union, or if Parliament rejects the deal offered. That clause - drafted by Grieve - basically hands a lot of power to Parliament if no deal has been agreed by the end of November.

MPs will on Wednesday debate a series of other amendments to the bill, which if passed, would seek to force May to change course and negotiate to stay inside a customs union and the single market after Brexit.

As the clock ticked down to the vote, two rebels stood up to say they were satisfied with what the government had offered them.

Dr Lee's shock departure came as Brexit Secretary David Davis warned potential Tory rebels that they can not undo the European Union referendum, ahead of a tricky 48 hours in which the Government will try to get its Brexit programme back on track.

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"I've been through this before when in opposition and now that when we're in Government, because if the House makes the concession of allowing the dialogue to continue and I can see the merit of that happening, it has got to be done in good faith".

"Thirdly, we must under all circumstances respect the result of the referendum". In between discussions, he spoke to ministers on the front benches, including May, scribbling notes on a Commons paper.

An hour before the vote, the government's solicitor general, Robert Buckland, promised lawmaker Dominic Grieve talks on increasing the powers of parliament if May was unable to reach agreement in Brussels.

She told BBC Radio 4's World At One that "at least half a dozen" junior ministers had been "very uncomfortable for some time" at the Government's direction on Brexit.

"A vote between bad and worse is not a meaningful vote".

The final vote, as outlined in Grieve third point, would be different as the government would then have to follow any direction given by the Commons. However, it is understood that she had concerns over the Lords amendment on the table.

However, a compromise appeared in sight last night after Remainers and Brexiteers backed a call for ministers to report on attempts to agree a customs "arrangement".

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