Parliament can “expect” to be given a vote on the final Brexit deal before the UK leaves the EU the Department for Exiting the European Union has said, after David Davis told MPs it might not.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Brexit secretary said the government wanted a Commons vote to take place before the end of March 2019.
Earlier today, Davis told MPs he expected the final agreement with the EU not to be signed until the “last moment”.
Asked if this meant the planned Commons vote on the deal could actually be held after Brexit happened, Davis said “yes”.
Davis’ Brexit department attempted to clarify the position after an outcry from MPs on all sides who said that was unacceptable and at odds with what had been promised.
But while the statement said the government hoped to hold a vote before the end of March 2019 – it did not rule out it being delayed until after Brexit.
A spokesperson for Davis’ said: “We are working to reach an agreement on the final deal in good time before we leave the EU in March 2019.
“Once the deal is agreed we will meet our long-standing commitment to a vote in both Houses and we expect and intend this to be before the vote in the European Parliament and therefore before we leave.
“This morning the secretary of state was asked about hypothetical scenarios. Michel Barnier has said he hopes to get the deal agreed by October 2018 and that is our aim as well.”
Downing Street said Theresa May “has full confidence” in Davis following the row.
“He was asked a question about timing and process which was hypothetical. As you would expect in a select committee, Secretaries of State answer the question put to them, that is what he did,” the prime minsiter’s spokeswoman said.
“On the issue of voting, what’s important is that it is our intention and full expectation that we will secure a deal in good time before we leave and that MPs will vote on it before we leave. I’m not going to get into hypothetical questions here.”
Former Conservative cabinet minister Nicky Morgan had told the BBC it would be “completely wrong” for a vote to be delayed until after Brexit had already happened. “It’s completely pointless to have such vote at that stage and so it’s clearly unacceptable,” she said.
Speaking to the Commons Brexit Committee this morning, Davis said he expected the talks to go right down to the wire.
“It’s no secret that the way the EU makes its decisions tends to be at the 59th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day and so on. That’s precisely what I expect to happen here” he said.
“If there is a time limit on a negotiation. The [European] Union stops the clock. It assumes it’s still at 11.59 until it’s concluded, sometimes over the course of 24, 36, 72 hours thereafter. It will be a lot of pressure. It will be very high stress. Very exciting for everyone watching.”
Earlier this year, May agreed to give UK MPs a vote on the eventual deal before it is then voted on by members of the European Parliament.
Davis told MPs today the likelihood of a the UK leaving the EU with a “hostile” no deal was “off the probability scale”.
However he said the option of walking away with no deal had to be maintained otherwise the EU would have the UK “over a barrel”.
“No deal is an option, we have made that clear. It is not our preferred option, we want a deal,” he said.
We leave no-deal as an option literally right up to the moment of signing because it would not be the first time in European negotiations where sudden, last minute claims come in because they think they’ve got you over a barrel.”