Remain-supporting backbench MPs are conspiring to upend Parliamentary protocol and seize control of Brexit from the Government in attempts to stop a WTO exit or even to prevent the UK from leaving the EU altogether, according to The Sunday Times.
By Victoria Friedman
A group of cross-party backbench, or non-Governmental, MPs are said to be tabling an amendment to change House of Commons rules so that backbenchers’ motions could precedence over Government business, according to sources speaking to the newspaper of record.
Downing Street is said to be concerned that that could result in laws being passed to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal, a suspension of Article 50 (the process for leaving the EU), or even stop Brexit entirely.
Tory party whip Julian Smith apparently overheard the plot, writing to Prime Minister Theresa May that should the conspirators succeed, “the Government has no control over the House of Commons and the Parliamentary business and legislation necessary to progress government policies. The Government would lose its ability to govern.”
Tory backbencher and ultra-remainer Nick Bowles confirmed to The Times that he wanted to make it illegal to leave the EU on WTO rules, saying, “We have a mechanism which will give Parliament control of the Brexit negotiations and ensure we do not leave the EU without a deal on March 29.
“To change a law you need to pass a law. I am working on ways to achieve that outcome. We will be publishing it on Tuesday.”
House of Commons sources also told the newspaper that Speaker John Bercow could allow the amendment to May’s deal, and if passed would result in non-governing MPs taking control of Brexit.
A source said, “Tearing up the standing orders is what I would expect to happen. He is setting out to stop Brexit. He’s part of the rebel team.”
The Speaker’s anticipated position comes after the Mail on Sunday also reported that Bercow met with Remainer Tory MP Dominic Grieve hours before allowing breaching Commons precedent by allowing a vote on an amendment intended to derail a “No Deal,” or WTO, Brexit.
A spokesman for Mr Bercow confirmed the two influential Remainers met, but declined to give detail of what was discussed.
One Brexiteer MP told the Daily Mail, “This is exactly as expected: a Remainer stitch-up by Bercow and Grieve.”
Details of the plot were leaked 48 hours before MPs are set to vote on Mrs May’s deal, on which she is widely expected to be defeated.
The Times reports that Tory Whips are using the the plot as a means to pressure Brexiteers into support Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday, which would leave the UK in a position of paying a £39bn divorce bill, remaining in a ‘transition period’ for nearly two years, and could endanger the Union by locking Northern Ireland into regulatory alignment with the bloc if a deal is not struck.
Meanwhile, Mrs May writing in the Sunday Express ramped up her own Project Fear by saying that should MPs fail to back her, “we will risk not leaving the European Union at all” and that a WTO Brexit would be “a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy.”
Combating project fear tactics by soft-Brexit and Remain supporting MPs that clean-break Brexit can somehow be stopped, Tory lawmaker Anne-Marie Trevelyan told Sophy Ridge on Sky News Sunday that “the reality is the statute in place at the moment is to leave on the 29th of March either with an agreed deal, which the prime minister has been negotiating, or if one can’t be reached by then on a no-deal basis and then we continue the conversation afterwards. But we will have stepped away from all those EU connections.”
Meanwhile, Brexiteer Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has written in The Sun that leaving on WTO terms would “unquestionably” be better than leaving on May’s terms, while former Brexit minister Dominic Raab writes for The Telegraph that the Withdrawal Agreement would “keep us locked into swathes of EU laws” and in the face of EU intransigence, the UK should prepare to leave on WTO terms.