David Davis has been warned that rebel Tory MPs are “deadly serious” about forcing the government to guarantee MPs will have a vote on the final Brexit deal before the UK leaves the EU.
The Brexit secretary sparked an outcry on Wednesday when he suggested parliament may not be given a chance to approve the deal until after end of March 2019.
Davis later clarified his remarks and said the would “expect and intend” to give MPs a say before the exit date. However he again did not rule out the vote being held after Brexit has already happened.
In response, MPs across the Commons will attempt to amend the government’s EU Withdrawal Bill to ensure any vote on the deal is held before the UK leaves.
Nick Morgan, the Conservative chair of the Treasury select committee, challenged Davis in the Commons on Thursday morning.
“There is a way for the government to put this matter completely beyond doubt, that is to accept Amendment 7 to the withdrawal bill,” she said.
“Reports have reached members on this side that the secretary of state doesn’t think those Conservative members who have signed that amendment are serious about supporting it if we need to. Can I tell him. We are deadly serious.”
Davis, who was repeatedly pressed by MPs in the Commons to accept the amendment or table his own, said it was “not true” that he did not take the threat of a Tory rebellion seriously.
The Brexit secretary insisted that parliament would be given a vote on the deal. “The choice will be meaningful: either to accept that deal, or to move forward without a deal,” he said.
“Clearly we cannot say for certain at this stage when this will be agreed. But as Michel Barnier said, he hopes to get a draft deal done by October 2018 and that is our hope as well.”
But speaking to the Commons Brexit Committee yesterday, Davis predicted a deal would not be signed until the very last minute.
“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.”
Asked if this meant the planned Commons vote on the deal could actually be held after Brexit happened, Davis said “yes”.