Government's Brexit deal amendment has been published - and it's not what Remainers expected

 
Catherine Neilan
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Theresa May has been warned "it's crunch-time" after a last-minute change was made to a critical amendment to the Brexit bill after the government effectively turned it into a confidence vote.

Instead of a clause granting MPs a say on the next steps if no deal is reached by 21 January next year, the published version grants "a motion in neutral terms" - merely stating they have considered the statement.

A spokesperson for the Brexit department said last night:

“Our new amendment respects the tests set out by the Prime Minister and the Brexit Secretary.

“We have listened to those across the House who called for the ability to express their views, in the unlikely event that our preferred scenario did not come to pass.

“But this remains hypothetical and the Government is confident we will agree a good deal with the EU which Parliament will support.”

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the BBC that his original amendment - which had been hailed as a victory by those in his camp just hours earlier - had been "inexplicably changed" at the last minute to make it "unacceptable".

The Conservative backbencher told City A.M. he was disappointed, but still hopeful an agreement could be reached.

"We must continue the discussion and get it improved," he said. "Not much more is needed."

Colleague Anna Soubry was less conciliatory, saying. "The appalling thing is nobody spoke to Dominic Grieve... I think that is unforgivable. You don't behave like that."

Grieve's amendment has been at the heart of another week of chaos for the government, with Theresa May attempting to keep the Remainer rebels onside while not upsetting the Brexiters so much that she runs the risk of a leadership challenge from the Eurosceptic side of her party.

However, Brexiters are cautiously relieved with where things have ended up.

"We can live with it," one senior Leaver said. "The fundamental point is that the government is not bound... The ability of government to call the bluff of the EU and leave without a deal is still there."

But he noted there had been "substantial concessions" made to Remainers.

"The PM has sought to treat both sides very reasonably, but all the concessions have been on our side," he said.

"There have been far more concessions than we would have chosen to give."

Last night a government source said "Dominic Grieve got exactly what he wanted: he wanted a meaningful vote and that’s what he got; he says he doesn't want to stop Brexit and now he can't."

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