MPs urged not to change Brexit bill


The Brexit secretary has urged MPs to leave the bill for exiting the EU unchanged when it is debated again in the Commons on Monday.

David Davis wants MPs to reject a proposal by peers for the bill to guarantee a “meaningful” parliamentary vote on the final exit package.

If MPs pass the bill, Theresa May could trigger Article 50 as early as Tuesday.

She has said she will take the UK out of the EU even if MPs reject the deal she is offered.

Monday will be the second time MPs debate and vote on the EU withdrawal bill.

Amendments were made to it last week after they were backed by a majority of peers.

The Lords’ demanded protections for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and a written guarantee that Parliament will have a “meaningful vote” on the final terms of the UK’s departure.

Mrs May has indicated Parliament will get a say, but has said she would rather “walk away” from the EU than accept a “bad deal”, and would not return to negotiations if MPs and peers reject the Brexit package.

Mr Davis urged MPs to throw out the Lords’ amendments and send the bill back to them again for final approval “in its original form”.

“However they voted in the referendum, the majority of people now want the prime minister to be able to get on with the job,” he said.

“MPs passed straightforward legislation allowing the government to move ahead with no strings attached.”

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Davis, said attaching conditions to the bill would undermine the prime minister’s negotiating stance, sending her into “this vital negotiation with one hand tied behind her back”.

Labour, which claims it is the only party with a “radical vision” for Brexit, has appealed to Mrs May to let the amendments go through.

In a letter sent to the prime minister on Friday, Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, and Angela Smith, Labour’s leader in the Lords, urged Mrs May to “reflect and reconsider on the overwhelming case to act on these two specific issues as this is the final opportunity to put vital guarantees and protections into legislation”.

The bill could complete its final stages on Monday if the Lords accepts the decisions made by MPs.

But BBC political correspondent Susana Mendonca said Mr Davis was worried a handful of Conservative MPs might rebel, potentially allowing the amendments to stand.

Even if the bill passes the Commons unchanged, it will go back to the Lords, raising the possibility the amendments will be re-imposed, she added.

Meanwhile, an influential committee of MPs has said there is a real possibility the Brexit talks could end with no resolution and called on ministers to draw up a plan if a deal fails to be agreed.

“It is clear from our evidence that a complete breakdown in negotiations represents a very destructive outcome, leading to mutually assured damage for the EU and the UK,” the Commons foreign affairs committee said.

“Both sides would suffer economic loss and harm to their international reputations.”

Failure to prepare for such outcome would be a “serious dereliction of duty,” the MPs said.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the government had been “reckless” not to prepare for a Leave vote and also in its approach to Article 50 negotiations.

“All we have heard from the government so far is that if there is no deal, they are prepared to ‘break the British economic model’.

“There are some very serious issues highlighted in this report which must be addressed. It is completely inadequate to brush these questions off and claim what would happen without a deal is ‘an exercise in guesswork’.”

A government spokesman said Mr Davis had briefed the cabinet last month “on the need to prepare not just for a negotiated settlement, but for the unlikely scenario in which no mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached”.