Government forced to climbdown to avoid Brexit vote defeat

The Prime Minister made a bid to break the deadlock on Thursday with a proposal for a temporary customs union arrangement between the whole of the United Kingdom and the EU.

Theresa May was forced into a major compromise yesterday when she had to agree to give parliament a greater role in Brexit negotiations to avert a defeat at the hands of rebels from her own party who want to keep close European Union ties after Britain leaves.

The House of Commons voted 324 to 298 to defeat an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which would have removed her government's power to unilaterally walk away from talks with Brussels.

The European Union Withdrawal Bill, a complex piece of legislation meant to disentangle Britain from four decades of EU rules and regulations, has had a rocky ride through Parliament.

The legislation is now back before the House of Commons after a total of 15 defeats by the House of Lords.

Protesters outside the UK Parliament in central London.

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"We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the government's hands in the negotiations".

"The main reason for my taking this decision now is the Brexit process and the government's wish to limit parliament's role in contributing to the final outcome in a vote that takes place today", Lee, who voted to remain in the European Union during Britain's 2016 referendum, said on his website.

The most contentious was the bid to give Parliament the power to tell the government what to do if the Brexit deal was voted down or no agreement was reached.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland intervened four times during a speech by the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, whose amendment would effectively give MPs a veto on the government's negotiating agenda if a deal isn't done by the end of November.

This came after a last-minute resignation by the justice minister Dr Phillip Lee, who said he could no longer look his children in the eye and vote to support the government.

A file photograph of justice minister Phillip Lees.

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Further clashes were expected on Wednesday during debate on amendments relating to how closely Britain stays aligned with the EU's economy after leaving. Pro-Brexit members of the government want to be able to play the "no deal" card, but the House of Commons, where pro-EU voices are stronger, would nearly certainly reject the idea.

The new amendment will be written up at a later stage with detailed plans and concessions. "A vote between bad and worse is not a meaningful vote".

The debate, which lasted for almost three hours, was split down the usual non-partisan lines that have emerged as a result of Brexit, with the likes of Labour's Kate Hoey and John Mann saying they would back the Conservative government, while Tories including Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry spoke in favour of Grieve.

Britain is due to leave on March 29, 2019, and the bloc is frustrated with what it sees as a lack of firm proposals from the U.K about future relations.

Brexit protesters outside Parliament House.

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