Theresa May has been accused of reneging on a deal struck with MPs to avoid a game-changing Government defeat over Brexit.
After a last-gasp meeting with the Prime Minister before a crunch vote on Brexit on Tuesday, up to 17 Tory MPs agreed not to back a plan that could have seen Parliament take control of the Brexit negotiations if the Government failed to strike a deal.
May promised the would-be rebels the Government would put forward a new amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that would beef-up the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ plan in exchange for their support.
That compromise amendment – set to be voted on in the Lords on Monday - was published on Thursday afternoon, and prompted an immediate backlash from Tory MPs who believe they have been betrayed.
Under the Government’s plan, MPs will only be able to debate the Prime Minister’s next move if no deal is struck or they vote down the deal, and would have no power to direct what should happen next.
Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General who has led the charge for Parliament to have a greater say in the Brexit negotiations, was reportedly angry at the amendment.
He told The Telegraph: “I thought these issues had been resolved hours ago, but at the last minute an element has been changed in a way that is unacceptable.”
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, who had planned to rebel on Tuesday but was bought off by the Prime Minister, took to Twitter to express her disappointment.
Anna Soubry, who defied party orders on Tuesday and backed the meaningful vote amendment, also hit out.
May faces the prospect that the Lords could reject her amendment on Monday and back the one put forward by Grieve instead.
That would see the matter returned yet again to the Commons, where MPs will have another chance to defeat the Government.
It seemed that May had managed to diffuse a potential war in her party when she offered the concession on Tuesday.
The Government appeared to be on course for defeat when Phillip Lee resigned from his position as Justice Minister the morning of the vote in order to back the amendment.
The last-minute horse trading appeared to have worked when all Tory MPs – with the exception of Ken Clarke, Soubry and Lee – voted with the Government.
Yet Brexiteers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg put pressure on the Government not to agree to the main thrust of the Remainers argument that Parliament should be able to instruct the Government how to negotiate with Brussels.
Some Leavers were worried MPs would vote down the deal and then instruct the Government to keep the UK in the Single Market or customs union - or perhaps the EU entirely.
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: “The Government’s amendment is simply not good enough. Theresa May has gone back on her word and offered an amendment that takes the meaning out of the meaningful vote. Parliament cannot - and should not - accept it.”
A Brexit Department spokesperson said: “Our new amendment respects the tests set out by the Prime Minister and the Brexit Secretary.
“We have listened to those across the House who called for the ability to express their views, in the unlikely event that our preferred scenario did not come to pass.
“That is why we have included three situations which would trigger a vote in both Houses: a) should Parliament reject the Government’s deal with the EU, b) that no agreement can be reached, or, c) there is no deal agreed by the 21 January 2019. This ensures that in all circumstances Parliament can hold Government to account, while also allowing Government to deliver on the will of the British people as expressed in the referendum.
“But this remains hypothetical and the Government is confident we will agree a good deal with the EU which Parliament will support.”