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Theresa May avoids Commons defeat after Brexit climbdown

Theresa May avoids Commons defeat after Brexit climbdown

It's been revealed ex-Tory ministers Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry rebelled against the government by voting against the motion to disagree with Lords amendment, created to give Parliament a vote to prevent a "no deal" Brexit.

The Government made a series of late concessions to backbench MPs who were minded to rebel behind closed doors, meaning the true nature of what has been agreed is not yet clear.

The Lib Dems, who identify strongly as an anti-Brexit party to the point of pushing for a second referendum and running by-elections in Remain-friendly seats on that platform, opposed the Government.

May yesterday avoided losing a vote on her EU Withdrawal Bill after making a last minute concession to Tory rebel MPs.

Speaking at prime minister's questions, May said the government meant to bring forward its own amendment, but stressed that she could not allow MPs to bind the government's hands or to open it up to the risk that Brexit could be reversed.

The concession on a meaningful vote came after intensive horse-trading on the floor of the House of Commons, with chief whip Julian Smith shuttling between Tory backbenchers during debate on Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

"The government have conceded that this is necessary and I expect to see a new amendment to cover this situation soon".

His competing amendment could force ministers to hand over control of its Brexit strategy to parliament if there is no deal by mid-February. "It is, however, irresponsible to proceed as we are".

May's government is divided between Brexit-backing ministers such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who support a clean break with the European Union, and those such as Treasury chief Philip Hammond who want to keep closely aligned to the bloc, Britain's biggest trading partner.

"We have now removed every incentive from the European Union for doing a deal by the end of November", one senior United Kingdom government official said.

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A statement from the Brexit ministry said the government had agreed to "look for a compromise".

But one minister told the BBC he would commit only to "further discussions".

May is seeking to overturn 14 of 15 amendments passed by the Lords earlier this year, but has a fight on her hands due to her fragile majority in the 650-seat Commons.

Dr. Sarah Wollaston, chair of the heath select committee, switched to back the Government after saying she was "minded" to rebel over voting against the Lord's amendment.

"The question is how do we take some sensible steps to anticipate that happening and try to make sure that there is a coherent process for dealing with it".

"How much more damage is the prime minister going to do to the country before she realises the important thing is to get a deal for the people of this country, not one to appease the clashing giant egos of her cabinet?"

Morgan said if a compromise amendment did not emerge, rebels could work with the Lords to ensure the changes took place. "I am trying to negotiate the best deal for Britain".

Earlier, May appeared to have also stemmed a rebellion on Wednesday over her commitment to leaving the EU's customs union which will transform Britain's trading relationships for decades to come.

However, the compromise is only likely to delay a full-blown showdown on the customs union until trade legislation returns to the Commons in July.