British MPs rejected a plan to strengthen parliament's power to intervene if no divorce deal is reached with Brussels. A rebellion by pro-EU MPs was averted after they were promised a "meaningful vote" on the outcome.
British Prime Minister Theresa May won a vital parliamentary vote on Wednesday, which allows her government to press ahead with offering lawmakers a take-it-or-leave-it decision on any final Brexit deal.
MPs voted by 319 to 303 to reject a rebel amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which sets the legal framework for the UK to leave the European Union.
Pro-EU politicians spent months lobbying for parliament to be given the opportunity to stop Britain crashing out of the EU without a future trade deal, which could spell disaster for the British economy.
May has offered parliament a vote on the final terms of any deal with Brussels, but has rejected what she sees as any attempt to undermine the chances of a strong Brexit deal. Those opposed to a hard Brexit wanted the option to return negotiators to talks with the EU, rather than crashing out with no trade deal at all — something the government says will weaken its position in the eyes of Brussels.
Last week, May agreed to allow a limited parliamentary vote in the event that negotiators fail to reach a deal by January 21 next year. Ahead of Wednesday's vote, the government went further, promising rebels from her ruling Conservatives that MPs would get a "meaningful vote" in case of a 'no deal.'
Leading rebel Conservative Dominic Grieve said the new clarity was an "obvious acknowledgment of the sovereignty of this place (parliament)," and confirmed he would back the government.
Grieve had won support among fellow Conservatives, as well as the opposition Labour Party, by arguing that May had not promised parliament enough control to prevent the "chaos" of a no deal scenario.
Another rebel, former minister Nicky Morgan, tweeted: "On this basis parliament's vote is meaningful and I will support govt.amendment."
All MPs called in to vote
To beat off the rebellion, the Conservatives had to call back heavily pregnant and sick MPs to parliament to cast their ballots.
Winning the vote is a huge relief for May, who relies on a small party from Northern Ireland for a parliamentary majority, and who has struggled to maintain her authority over a deeply divided government.
She now needs to get several other laws through parliament to prepare Britain for life outside the EU, and will almost certainly face further mutiny on issues such as future trading ties and customs arrangements with the bloc.
mm/rc (Reuters, AFP)