By Agence France-Presse
British MPs will hold a string of key votes on Brexit during a single day next week, the government revealed Monday, warning rebels not to use the opportunity to challenge its EU strategy.
In what promises to be a day of drama lasting well into the evening, the House of Commons will decide on June 12 whether to retain or reject 15 amendments made by the House of Lords to a landmark Brexit bill.
Among the changes, the government will be seeking to overturn include one giving parliament the right to decide what happens if Britain fails to agree on terms of its withdrawal with the European Union.
Other amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill would keep Britain’s economy closely aligned to the bloc, contrary to Prime Minister Theresa May’s policy to leave both the EU’s single market and customs union.
Chief whip Julian Smith, who is in charge of enforcing parliamentary discipline in May’s Conservative party, wrote to MPs setting out the date for the votes — and warning would-be rebels.
He said he looked forward to working with them to deliver a bill “that reflects both the referendum result (to leave the EU) and the Conservative party manifesto we all stood on last year”.
May had been accused of delaying debate of the Lords amendments for fear of defeat by a handful of Conservative rebels and opposition MPs, who together may be able to overturn her slim Commons majority.
She drew condemnation on Monday for squeezing more than a dozen amendments passed over weeks in the Lords into one frenzied day in the lower chamber.
“This government is really taking the piss — and treating the British people with contempt,” said Green MP Caroline Lucas on Twitter.
“We wait weeks and weeks, and then they force the whole bill through in one session. And they call themselves democrats.”
The main opposition Labour party has said it will back 14 of the 15 Lords amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which sets the legal framework for Brexit.
It will only oppose the amendment demanding Britain stay a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), which offers the benefits of the single market without having a say in its rules.
However, on this point, it could face its own rebellion by Labour MPs who fear the impact on the economy and jobs of cutting ties with the EU.