Tory Remainer rebels were compared to the “Grand Old Duke of York” after backing down from an EU Withdrawal Bill revolt on human rights at the very last minute.
Conservative MPs led by Dominic Grieve were preparing to join forces with their opponents to inflict defeat on the Government’s Brexit legislation over its potential impact on human rights.
Grieve had tabled an amendment calling for the full protection of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights in post-Brexit domestic law, but withdrew it at the final hour and refused to back a similar motion by Labour.
Fellow would-be rebels Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan were among 15 expected to defy the Government, but the sole Tory to step out of line was arch-europhile Ken Clarke.
It is understood ministers will work with Grieve to make changes to the Bill at a later change, but SNP said the Tory rebels have capitulated for “precious little”.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry said: “The process of leaving the European Union is already extremely complex and unpredictable, and the removal of the charter of fundamental rights simply risks creating an additional level of legal uncertainty and instability. So why do it? Why not reconsider?
“Just like the Grand Old Duke of York, the much-lauded Rebel Tories have marched their troops up to the top of the hill and then down again after precious little by way of concession.”
Britain is currently a member of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which covers many civil, political and social rights for EU and UK citizens.
Until the UK formally leaves the European Union, EU law applies in the UK either directly in some instances, or when it is written into UK law, such as when an Act of Parliament is passed to apply an EU directive.
But its jurisdiction will no longer apply after the country leaves the EU in March 2019 and the EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form states: “The charter of fundamental rights is not part of domestic law on or after exit day.”
Cherry added: “The UK government must listen to the overwhelming legal advice which has warned against failing to incorporate the Charter with the rest of retained EU law, and warned that the repeated reluctance of successive UK governments to fully incorporate UN human rights treaties, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law, show that the UK government cannot be trusted to protect citizens’ rights.
“The UK government must not resort to a race to the bottom by abandoning rights that have played a central role in our day to day lives.”
Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake added: “The Government squeaked home, but we will not give up the fight to protect fundamental rights from an extreme Brexit.
“Ministers won’t be permitted to weaken vital protections to appease their own Brexiteer backbenchers and ram through a Tory Brexit.
“The vast majority of people do not want to see a Brexit that undermines our freedoms, equality and privacy.”