Brexit secretary David Davis has told MPs not to “tie the Prime Minister's hands” by approving amendments to the Article 50 Bill as the UK embarks on an historic week in which the government could kickstart the process of leaving the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May might trigger Article 50 as soon as tomorrow as she seeks to begin the UK's momentous withdrawal from the EU, with European Council president Donald Tusk ready to respond within 48 hours.
MPs will today debate whether to scrap amendments to legislation that would force May to offer unilateral guarantees to EU nationals currently in the UK, and hand parliament a “meaningful” vote on the final Brexit deal.
Westminster sources suggest both clauses are likely to be axed by MPs, with Davis yesterday stressing the government's determination to see the Bill approved unamended.
Up to 10 Conservatives could abstain from voting today, although the support of eight Democratic Unionists and roughly six Labour Brexiteers makes a government defeat unlikely.
“Parliament is a place where passions run high, but the reality is that there is quite a lot of consolidation of opinion around what needs to happen next,” Tory Brexiteer Dominic Raab told City A.M. “We saw that already with the numbers of Labour MPs voting in favour of the Bill at third reading.”
MPs will have a two-hour window for discussions this afternoon, before peers in the Lords debate whether to offer their own approval later tonight, paving the way for Royal Assent of the Bill.
Lord Heseltine, who played a leading role in the House of Lords' amendments to the Bill, yesterday warned peers they should be prepared to back down.
Asked what should happen if MPs reject the amendments, Heseltine said on Peston on Sunday: “If that were to happen, and I would not be surprised if it were to happen, then the arguments for the supremacy of the Commons would be very powerful.”
Baroness Altmann, the former pensions minister who also voted against the government, told City A.M. the Lords could send it back to the Commons one more time, but would then need to back down.
“If it went back a second time and came back again unamended then that would be it. I don't think it would be right for the unelected chamber to frustrate the will of the House in that way.”