British PM avoids Brexit defeat in knife-edge parliament vote

Brexit news UK EU Theresa May second referendum

- After a rollercoaster week of Brexit rows within her government and with Brussels, British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Tuesday seek to avoid another setback in a long-awaited showdown with parliament.

The concession on a meaningful vote came after intensive horse-trading on the floor of the House of Commons, with chief whip Julian Smith shuttling between Tory backbenchers during debate on Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Some lawmakers tried to shout him down and accused the government of wanting too much power.

In the end MPs voted by 324 to 298 to reject the House of Lords proposal, with only two Tories voting against the government.

Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Edward Leigh slammed pro-EU colleagues, saying Parliament must respect the result of the June 2016 voter referendum. Although, as things stand, they will not be able to send the government back into negotiations if they reject an agreement with the EU.

The key vote which has taken place is whether MPs will have a "meaningful vote" - amendment 19 proposed by the Lords - on the final Brexit agreement.

Brexit Secretary David Davis, who reportedly has clashed with May, has warned Conservative Party rebels that proposals to give Parliament the power to direct negotiations with the European Union are simply a tactic to overturn the results of the 2016 referendum that mandated Britain's departure from the bloc.

In the tense atmosphere where it was not clear which way the vote would go, the government secured its victory only after offering concessions to one of the leaders of a group of Conservative lawmakers who were threatening to vote against May.

The Lords amendment would have given parliament the power to decide what happened next, with the possibility of going back to the negotiating table or even staying in the bloc.

One government official said: "It's not over yet".

Earlier, the Government was hit by its first resignation over Brexit strategy, as Justice Minister Phillip Lee quit.

However, a potential rebellion by pro-Remain Tories over their demands for a "meaningful vote" on the final Brexit deal was only avoided after ministers agreed at the last moment to discuss a compromise.

May's divided cabinet has yet to settle on what sort of customs deal Britain should have with the European Union - an issue of crucial importance to businesses with cross-border supply chains, and the land border between European Union member state Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

The government's eleventh hour amendment, lifted in large parts from Tory Remainer Dominic Grieve's own proposal and to be presented to the Lords on Monday, is expected to give MPs the right to veto the government's strategy if it fails to secure a political agreement with the European Union by 30 November.

But after meeting Mrs May he told this paper: "I've been to see the prime minister and received important undertakings and made a decision to vote to give the prime minister the authority and freedom to negotiate the best deal she can".

In fact, her party is far from united.

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