Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Minister resigns over Brexit ahead of crucial vote in UK

Minister resigns over Brexit ahead of crucial vote in UK

During three and a half hours of tense debate on amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, government whips held whispered conferences with a handful of Tories on the Commons benches.

Theresa May has suffered a ministerial resignation ahead of crunch Commons votes on Brexit, with Phillip Lee hitting out at the Government's "irresponsible" approach.

Commenting on the government's actions to avoid a defeat over the "meaningful vote" demands, Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: "This vote was about ensuring Parliament was given a proper role in the Brexit negotiations and that we avoid a no deal situation, which is becoming more likely with the divisions at the heart of this government".

If enough of them side with the opposition, the prime minister could lose some key votes.

Despite Mr Rees-Mogg backing the Prime Minister, other Brexiteers are furious that Mrs May has killed off the prospect of a no deal Brexit.

Conservative former minister Anna Soubry said the abuse of MPs who speak out against the government's Brexit policy "simply has to stop".

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.

Leading Conservative rebels welcomed the "important concessions" by the government, but insisted that ministers must follow through on their concession or face a defeat when the bill returns to the House of Commons later this month.

In an earlier vote, MPs voted by 328 votes to 297 to disagree with another Lords amendment which was linked to changes to the day Britain leaves the EU.

Brexit Minister Steve Baker said the Government would "look very carefully" at the amendment, which is being tabled by former Cabinet Ministers Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan.

Remain-supporting Dr Lee quit as justice minister live on stage during a speech in London, saying he could not support "how our country's exit from the European Union looks set to be delivered".

"Whatever we do, we're not going to reverse that (decision to leave the EU)", David told BBC radio.

Dr Lee's shock departure came as Brexit Secretary David Davis warned potential Tory rebels that they can not undo the European Union referendum, ahead of a tricky 48 hours in which the Government will try to get its Brexit programme back on track. There were 14 of us in the room. Lee, who voted for Britain to remain in the E.U.in the 2016 referendum, said in a statement he was "incredibly sad" to resign but did so in order to vote against the government's position on a key amendment to the bill.

"However, facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat, Theresa May has been forced to enter negotiations with her backbenchers and offer a so-called concession".

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