Theresa May is on a collision course with Tory rebels after refusing to say if she will compromise over plans to cement the date of Brexit into law.
A group of Tory MPs, lead by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, want to stop the Brexit date of March 29, 2019 being written into the EU Withdrawal Bill.
The MPs – estimated to number 15 – believe such an act would severely undermine negotiations with Brussels as it could prevent the UK and the EU from extending negotiations if needed to get a good deal.
The Government wants the date included in the legislation to reassure the public that Brexit will happen.
After being defeated in the Commons on Wednesday over Parliament getting a meaningful vote on any withdrawal deal, May is under pressure to back down or face another embarrassing upset.
As she arrived for the EU summit in Brussels this afternoon, May was asked if she was prepared to offer any compromises to prevent a second defeat on the Bill.
She replied: “Look at the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill so far – it has been making good progress through the House of Commons.
“We’ve actually had 36 votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill and we’ve won 35 of those votes, with an average majority of 22, so the Bill is making good progress and we are on course to deliver Brexit, we’re on course to deliver on the vote of the British people.”
When asked again if she would “compromise more”, May repeated her answer.
“We’ve won 35 out of 36 votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill, it is making good progress in the House of Commons and that means we are on course to deliver on the sovereign vote of the British people and that’s what we’ll be doing,” she said.
While May is right to point out her ‘win’ statistics, the Government were forced to accept a amendment on Monday on scaling down so-called Henry VIII powers in the Bill – meaning a win for rebels without having to go to a vote.
Wednesday night’s vote saw 11 Tories vote against party orders and back plans to give Parliament a “meaningful vote” on any Brexit agreement before it is signed off by the Government and Brussels.
Rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve vowed after the vote to continue to push for the date of Brexit to be removed from the Bill.
The former Attorney General believes such an act would severely undermine negotiations with Brussels as it could prevent the UK and the EU from extending negotiations if needed to get a good deal.