14 Jun 2018

Decision day on Brexit vote compromise

Political Editor

Dominic Grieve’s team thinks there’s a compromise amendment they can live with. It was brokered into the night by Oliver Letwin and is now being poured over by DEXEU (the David Davis team) and by the ERG.

Yesterday saw some amazing flurries of speculation and briefing. One particularly surprised Remainers as reports flew around that the government wasn’t discussing clause c when the Remainers were in talks with Gavin Barwell about specifically that.

There was an overnight quandary over whether the wording of the amendment was justiciable. The Government tried to push back on the “motion” language hoping that they could water that down to a “statement.” There has been a focus on the dates (end of November and mid February). But the main attention has been on clause c and the power it gives to MPs to direct or instruct ministers. As I’ve mentioned before, Dominic Grieve’s rebel army included people who were queasy about that on constitutional grounds so they (almost all of them) were always up for compromise language.

David Davis was peeved that the whips didn’t press home against the Grieve gang on Tuesday and test their strength. He’s told friends he thinks they’d have folded under pressure and couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the Lords amendment. So he pores over the new draft amendment in a frustrated mood but must know that the passage of events has meant that there could be no doubt Dominic Grieve could muster enough to defeat the Government if they don’t yield some ground now and the battle is re-fought next week in the Lords on Monday and then in the Commons.

The ERG frontman Jacob Rees-Mogg insists in The Times today that Parliament has all the means it needs to stop a Brexit it doesn’t like through the mechanism of the Confidence Vote and the ability to bring down the government. He knows that’s a nuclear button Tory MPs won’t want to press. Will he allow the government to give some ground now? Will Brexit forces within the government give the green light? Mrs May has a post-election parliamentary understanding with the DUP but a less structured and relentlessly painful relationship with her own party.