David Davis has promised that British MPs and peers will be able to debate, scrutinise and vote on the final Brexit agreement through primary legislation in a concession to pro-EU Conservative backbenchers.
The secretary of state announced the move in the Commons as the government faces possible defeat on an amendment laid down by Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, which had called for a meaningful vote on the final deal.
“It is clear that we need to take further steps to provide clarity and certainty both in the negotiations and at home regarding the implementation of any agreement into United Kingdom law,” said Davis, outlining the plans for legislation. “This agreement will only hold if parliament approves it.”
However, the offer was immediately attacked by both Labour and Conservative politicians, who expressed anger that it did not give parliament any say in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
Others said the lack of promise to hold the vote before Britain’s EU exit date, 29 March 2019, which the government is now planning to write into law, meant the offer was meaningless. They raised concerns that if politicians voted down the deal, Britain would simply crash out of the EU anyway.
In theory the legislation will be amendable, but Davis has made clear that the vote would amount to a take it or leave it option for MPs, with no offer to return to the negotiating table if politicians demand tweaks.
The Conservative MP Anna Soubry asked Davis if she was right to assume MPs had no say if there was no deal. “We can’t have a withdrawal deal bill if there is no withdrawal bill,” he admitted in response.
Soubry told the Guardian: “The government is preparing for a hard Brexit – no deal.”
Grieve expressed concern that ministers were making a verbal promise alone, and said the policy needed to be written into the EU withdrawal bill.
“I welcome the announcement today that parliament will be asked to approve any withdrawal agreement by statute but it remains the case that the bill as drafted does not reflect what the…