Theresa May has been warned by her own MPs that she faces another embarrassing defeat on her Brexit legislation.
Last night 11 Conservative rebels, led by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, voted to ensure there would be a “meaningful vote” on the eventual Brexit deal.
Brexiteer Tories have reacted with fury to the government defeat. Backbencher Nadine Dorries accused the rebels of “treachery” and even called for them to be deselected.
But Grieve has told the prime minister he and his allies will go further next week and scupper her plan to enshrine the Brexit exit date in law.
“I hope very much it won’t be necessary because if the government comes back with that date, I’m sure the government will be defeated and I have no desire to defeat the Government or be involved in the Government’s defeat a second time,” he told BBC Newsnight.
The government has included a formal Brexit date of March 29, 2019 in the EU Withdrawal Bill.
However Tory rebels and Labour had argued this is a mistake as the UK may need the formal exit date to be flexible as the negotiations reach their final stages.
Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, who was sacked from his job as Conservative vice-chairman for voting against the government last night, also warned May to ditch the date.
“I think that many people will view that proposition as unnecessary, it’s probably not a good way to negotiate – in the type of negotiations that we are in – because under the Article 50 process there is some flexibility at the end for about a month or so if there needs to be some further elongation,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
“That’s a week to go in negotiations in terms of whether that’s going to be put to the House of Commons and whether it’s really necessary. People will take their view at the time.”
Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said the prime minsiter would lose the vote on the Brexit date. “Theresa May needs to learn the lesson of last night’s defeat and announce that she is dropping her silly idea of enshrining the date of Brexit in law,” he said. ”“Parliament has now shown it is not prepared to be bullied.”
The Tory rebels have stood by their decision in the face of anger from their colleagues and a Daily Mail front page which claimed they had betrayed “their leader, party and 17.4 million Brexit voters”.
However leading rebel Anna Soubry rubbished claims she and other rebels had drunk champagne last night to celebrate their victory.
“Nobody on these benches who voted against the Government took any pleasure from that,” she said.