From the flaccid inanity of Brexiteers to the current inability of the Conservative party to commit to a strong and stable position on Brexit, especially to allowing parliament a say on the final Brexit deal, the situation is now officially “a shambles.” According to the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, the government is now in a “mess” over Brexit since the Brexit secretary David Davis changes his mind each time he talks about the parliamentary vote on the final deal. One day the vote is said to take place before the deal is concluded and another day after. Starmer said that “that’s not good enough.”

MPs demand a meaningful vote

The government had promised earlier in February, during the passage of Article 50, to give parliament a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal. Davis triggered anger on Wednesday when he said that MPs might not be able to vote on any Brexit deal until much later after the UK has left the EU. 

Davis embarrassed the government when he began by saying that the negotiations would be lengthy and “very exciting,” and stated that the parliamentary vote on the final agreement could be delayed until after March 2019. In response to this, during the PMQs, May attempted to correct Davis by saying a vote could take place before the 2019 deadline.

“I hope he’ll stop asking himself hypothetical questions as we’ve got enough really hard questions to answer,” Nicky Morgan said. Anna Soubry, ex-business Tory minister, said that Davis’ comments were naïve and worrying: “Any eleventh hour deal is going to be in the run up to the end of next year, not March 2019, because it needs to be ratified by other European parliaments. He must know that, he’s the secretary of state.”

Chris Chope run to Davis’ defence and argued that he made a “perfectly sensible point,” since the possibility of a deal being pushed to the last minute and parliament voting afterwards, was a reasonable one.

Brexit withdrawal bill

The disagreement between Labour, Tory MPs and David Davis, comes a month before the EU withdrawal bill, that will transpose EU to UK law, is back to the House of Commons where it will be debated and amended on 13 and 14 November.

As the government announced today, the Brexit bill, which has been delayed due to almost 400 amendments being added to it, will return to parliament amid Tory MPs rebelling. Many Tories, including ex-cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, said to David Davis that they were “deadly serious” about continuing to pressure the government to allow MPs a say on the final Brexit deal with many ministers currently promising to give a vote to accept May’s deal or leave the EU without one. 

Morgan said: “'There is a way for the Government to put this matter completely beyond doubt, and that is to accept the amendment seven to the withdrawal laid by (Tory MP Dominic Grieve). Reports have reached members on this side that the Secretary of State does not think that those Conservative members who have signed that amendment are serious about supporting it if we need to. Can I tell him - we are deadly serious. It would be better for the Government to adopt a concession strategy on having a withdrawal agreement secured by statute, sooner rather than later, for all concerned.”

If the government doesn’t give some concessions, then it will face a possible alliance of Tory backbenchers and Labour urging for a legislation on Brexit.

Starmer attacked the government and said that they needed to commit to a vote on the deal because it just “cannot now be casually dispensed with.” Addressing Davis, Keir said: “Given the events of the last 24 hours, will he now accept the amendments to the Withdrawal Bill that the Article 50 vote should be put into law so we all know where we stand and we don't have to repeat this exercise?”

Dominic Grieve, Tory backbencher and ex attorney general, said that the Brexit deal would have to be approved by both UK and EU parliaments and “The only way in which we can do that properly is by statute in this House. In those circumstances isn't it rather fanciful to imagine that having reached a deal with the European Union, they will hold us in some strange way to ransom because we point out that we need the time to enact the necessary statute. This flies in the face of reality, it seems to me, and I think it would just tone down the debate a little and bring a bit of rationality if we understood that our European Union partners would expect us to reach our own conclusion in accordance with our constitutional requirements.”

With the next EU summit in the middle of December, both the EU and UK hope to begin the trade talks then, while agreeing to a deal by October 2018.