Theresa May has been warned she faces a Commons defeat unless she gives MPs a ‘meaningful’ vote that could delay a bad deal on Brexit.
A day before an expected Commons showdown, leading Tory rebel Dominic Grieve stepped up his demand that Parliament should get a binding vote on the terms and timing of the UK’s exit from the EU.
And with Grieve and fellow Tory rebels threatening to stand firm, No10 hinted for the first time that there could be a U-turn to give MPs “clarity” about its intentions.
The former Attorney General told BBC Radio 4′s World at One programme: “I don’t see any possibility of me backing down on this at all. One has to stand up for one’s principles.
Asked how many Tory backbenchers agreed, he replied: “I think enough, if this comes to a vote, to defeat the Government.”
Up to 20 Tory rebels could line up to inflict a humiliating defeat on May - just days after she hailed her triumph in getting a provisional Brexit deal with Brussels.
In a major rearguard action, the ‘Remainer’ MPs were called in for a meeting with the Tory Chief Whip Julian Smith on Tuesday.
Some have been promised written ministerial statement offering reassurance ahead of the crunch vote, HuffPost UK has been told.
Grieve’s amendment, which is set to be backed by Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems in a knife-edge vote on Wednesday, would give MPs the right to refuse any Brexit deal presented by May ahead of exit in March 2019.
Grieve added: “It could be possible for Parliament to say to the Government “I’m sorry I don’t think you have negotiated a good enough deal”.
“If our European partners are prepared to continue negotiating, that might also be possible. We just don’t know.”
Asked by HuffPost UK about Grieve’s remarks, Downing Street appeared to offer an olive branch to the rebels.
“What the MPs are asking for is clarity. We are looking at the amendment and will respond in due course,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
Fellow Brexit rebel Nicky Morgan, who has co-signed the amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, added to the pressure with her own warning that she would not back down.
“It goes without saying that in ‘taking back control’ that control should come back to the UK’s sovereign parliament and that Westminster MPs should have the same final say as our counterparts in the EU,” she told The Times.
Shadow Brexit Minister Matthew Pennycook told HuffPost: “It is encouraging that the Government appears to be finally listening to the very legitimate concerns of Labour and Tory MPs.
“However, recent history has taught us that this government’s concessions often don’t amount to much.
“Ministers must provide a cast iron guarantee that Parliament will have the final say on the withdrawal agreement. This means both a vote on the draft deal and then primary legislation implementing the ultimate agreement.
“If they fail to do so, then Tory MPs should deliver on their promises and vote with Labour tomorrow night.”