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COMMONS Speaker John Bercow snatched away PM Theresa May’s only hope against a crushing defeat before MPs went to vote on her Brexit deal and its four amendments tonight.
The deal is widely expected to be roundly rejected by the largest number of cross-party MPs in modern history.
Earlier today, Mr Bercow omitted an amendment by Tory MP Andrew Murrison that would have been her strongest defence against MPs voting down her Withdrawal Agreement.
It would have approved the deal subject to future negotiation on an expiry date on the Irish border backstop.
Tory former minister Sir Hugo Swire, who tabled an amendment that Mr Bercow also rejected, said the non-selection of his and Mr Murrison’s amendments “makes the government’s challenge this afternoon harder to convince those of us who are still concerned about the implications of the backstop.”
An amendment tabled by Labour MP John Mann — which pledged to strengthen protection over workers’ rights and the environment, which Ms May was considering after he had claimed it would make her deal “more attractive” — was also rejected.
Mr Bercow selected four amendments out of a dozen.
One was Amendment A, tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, that rejects the deal and says that no deal is unacceptable. It also says the deal should include a permanent customs union, alongside protection for workers’ rights and the environment.
Amendment K was tabled by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford. It rejects the deal and calls for Article 50 to be extended with the hope of cancelling Brexit altogether.
Amendment B and Amendment F — tabled by Tory MPs Sir Edward Leigh and John Baron — would approve the deal subject to being able to abandon the Withdrawal Treaty by 2022 if the backstop continues.
Objections to the backstop have continued despite the EU’s Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker writing to Ms May on Monday to offer assurances that they do not want it to be permanent.
It failed to soothe the concerns of MPs across the house who pointed out that “warm words” would not be legally binding and that they feared it could keep Britain under EU rules indefinitely.
Mr Corbyn said today: “If Theresa May’s botched deal is defeated she’ll only have herself to blame after two wasted years negotiating with her Cabinet and her bickering backbenchers instead of the EU.
“We need an election to have the chance to vote for a government that can bring people together.”
If Labour does win a no-confidence vote — dependent on the Democratic Unionist Party abstaining or voting against the government — it triggers a 14-day countdown.
A snap general election could be held if no-one can command a Commons majority within those two weeks.
Tomorrow, Ms May is expected to make a statement saying that she will return to Brussels to seek more concessions on the backstop, before she is legally obliged to return to Parliament with a formal Plan B by next Monday.
She has refused to rule out making MPs vote on Brexit deal “again and again and again” but MPs have said that holding repeated votes on the same deal would breach convention.
Lamiat Sabin is the Morning Star’s Parliamentary Reporter.
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