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JUSTICE Minister Philip Lee resigned today over the government’s “irresponsible” approach to Brexit just before MPs debated and voted on amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Remain-supporting Mr Lee of the Leave-voting Bracknell constituency quit as justice minister during a speech in London.
He said his main objection was over the government’s “wish to limit Parliament’s role in contributing to the final outcome” in the form of a “meaningful vote” and called for the government’s final proposals to be put to the public in a second referendum.
Pro-EU Tory MP Heidi Allen warned that other members of the government may follow Mr Lee out of the door.
He tendered his resignation as Theresa May warned her Cabinet that defeat on 15 Lords amendments in Commons votes today and tomorrow would undermine the government in negotiations with Brussels.
Before the Commons debate Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Labour cannot settle for a Norway-style post-Brexit deal as it would have “serious drawbacks,” with Britain having to follow rules from Brussels without helping make them.
In a Facebook post, he said: “Labour will only vote for a final Brexit deal if it delivers a strong relationship with the single market based on full tariff-free access and ensures no loss of rights and standards.
“Together with a new customs union, that would ensure a strong and balanced package to protect UK jobs and living standards, put a floor under rights and protections and ensure no hard border.”
Ministers are seeking to overturn one of the amendments, which would give Parliament extensive powers to direct ministers how to proceed if a deal with Brussels is rejected by MPs or no deal is reached.
The government’s compromise is that a minister would, within 28 days of a deal being rejected, tell MPs what will happen next.
During the Commons debate Tory former chancellor Ken Clarke said such a ministerial statement to MPs might as well say: “Oh, House of Commons, get lost!”
Labour MP Chris Leslie said it would be hypocritical to call for “taking back control” from the EU but then deny Parliament a say on the final deal.
Pro-Brexit Labour MP Kate Hoey disagreed, saying: “[British people] will see that this is really about actually trying to go back on Brexit.”
As the Star went to press, MPs had voted down three of the Lords amendments.
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