Minister hints at government climbdown over controversial date and time amendment to Brexit bill

 
Catherine Neilan
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At least 20 Tory backbenchers are expected to rebel if it does go to a vote (Source: Getty)

Theresa May could be poised for a climbdown over the inclusion of a controversial amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill in a bid to avert rebellion, one of her ministers has suggested.

Justice secretary David Lidington this afternoon told journalists government was "listening to ideas coming from colleagues across the house".

Tory backbenchers have been vocal in their rejection of this last-minute amendment, which will enshrine the exact time and date of Brexit into law.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve told City A.M. it was "mistaken, foolish and counterproductive", saying categorically he would vote against it.

Another MP said there was "widespread disquiet" among Conservative MPs over the amendment. It is thought at least 20 MPs are ready to block it, embarrassing the already vulnerable government.

Asked today if the government was minded to back down in the face of such opposition, Lidington said the government had been listening to the "constructive" suggestions being made "about how the bill could be improved"

He added: "All that clause was designed to do was clarify, put beyond doubt, what is already inherent in the wording of Article 50.

"Article 50 says that after two years from the date of notification, unless there is a withdrawal agreement that comes into effect earlier, at the two year point the treaties cease to apply to the country that is leaving, so that is written into European law."

Separately a third Tory backbencher has told City A.M. that ministers had indicated a climbdown was likely.

"My understanding is that it will not be put to a vote, so the government doesn't lose face," the MP said.

A spokesman for May said the PM had always been committed to listening to the views of the house.

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