Theresa May moves to stave off Commons revolt over Brexit

The Prime Minister has tonight sought to stave off a rebellion in the Commons as she agreed to allow MPs to scrutinise her Brexit plans in exchange for a commitment to triggering Article 50.

Prime Minister Theresa May

Faced with the possibility of a showdown over a Labour’s calls for more transparency, the Government has agreed to publish its negotiating plans before beginning the formal exit process.

However, in a move that will frustrate passionate remainers, the deal comes with the added condition that MPs unequivocally back the Government in invoking Article 50.

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It is thought the measure will be enough to appease Tory rebels, but critics warn MPs must not be fobbed off with the bare minimum of details.

Up to 40 pro-remain Tory MPs were rumoured to be ready to vote in support of tomorrow’s Labour motion, which calls on the Government to publish its Brexit strategy ahead of triggering Article 50.

Though non-binding, the vote would have marked Theresa May’s first defeat in the Commons since her appointment as Prime Minister.

In an apparent act of concession, the Government has tabled an amendment to the motion which still allows for Parliamentary scrutiny of its plans.

But it also commits MPs to “respect the wishes of the United Kingdom” and call on Government to “invoke Article 50 by March 2017”

The measure has been heralded as a “significant climb down” by Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, who said the current lack of information was creating “unnecessary uncertainty and speculation”.

He said his party is willing to support the amendment, and will now press ministers to publish their plans by the end of January next year.

“The timetable proposed in the Government’s amendment will come as no surprise to anyone. The Government have consistently said that they will invoke Article 50 by the end of March 2017,” he said.

“The victory today is that the Government have now finally accepted Labour’s call and committed to publish a plan.

“The Government now need to focus on ensuring that plan delivers a sensible Brexit deal that protects jobs, the economy and living standards.

“Labour will hold them to account on this every step of the way.”

The amendment has also been welcomed by members of the Pro-EU group Open Britain, who described it as a step “in the right direction”.

The Tory MP Anna Soubry, who was believed to be among the rebels, said it proved the Government “really is listening to all voices”.

But she also issued a call for ministers to publish a White Paper detailing their “guiding principles” for Brexit.

She told Sky News: “I would have liked a White Paper because I would like the options to have been laid out in it... we need to craft this so we know what our guiding principles are.”

Ed Miliband issued a similar demand, taking to Twitter to warn that Parliament will not accept a plan “of the ‘dog ate my homework’ variety”.

But the Lib Dems have urged Labour to oppose the Government amendment altogether, claiming that ministers are “trying to stifle scrutiny”.

The party’s leader Tim Farron said: “We believe in a referendum on the deal, departure is not the same as the destination.

“We urge [Labour] to back us and vote against the Government, otherwise what are [they] actually for.”

Downing Street has dismissed claims of a Labour victory, claiming that the amendment forces Labour and Lib Dem MPs to show their support for the referendum result.

A spokesman said it is now down to MPs “to signal that they also want to get on with Brexit by supporting our position, which is the Government should invoke by the end of March next year”.

“The Prime Minister has been clear that we will set out our plans in due course. That remains the position,” he added.

“We won’t be showing our negotiating hand until we have to, but we have not suggested we will not set out the position.

“That’s what the amendment goes to.”