Bob Neill Insists Majority Of Conservatives Back Theresa May's Brexit Deal

Twenty Conservatives supported an amendment tabled by Labour former minister Yvette Cooper to the Budget-enacting Finance (No. 3) Bill, according to the division list.

MPs have fired a warning shot across the Government's bows as they backed an amendment meant to limit ministers' tax raising powers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

While the amendment in itself will not bind the government to any set course of action, the vote showed the scale of opposition among MPs for "no deal" - with there being a narrow but clear majority against it.

Writing in the Guardian, Ms Cooper said a no-deal Brexit would cause "deep and long-lasting" damage, and the country "can't afford to play Brexit chicken and wait to see who blinks first".

In a statement outside the Commons, he said the vote in support of the amendment was "an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit".

Analysts said May's comments to the BBC did little to hide the fact the British leader has no "gamechanger" amendments to the proposed withdrawal agreement capable of swinging the parliamentary arithmetic in her favour.

Mrs May will then close the five-day debate ahead of the vote on the afternoon of January 15.

Debate on the deal is set to begin on Wednesday, with the vote due in the week beginning January 14.

The prime minister warned on Sunday that rejecting her deal would put Britain "in uncharted territory".

With a raft of other legislation still needing to be approved before Brexit day, that signals further difficulties for the government if it pursues a no-deal exit.

Shadow worldwide trade secretary Barry Gardiner suggested Labour could offer a referendum on a renegotiated Brexit deal. "Brexit was a problem created in the United Kingdom, the inability of the United Kingdom to ratify the withdrawal agreement is a problem in Westminster and we are really looking to them for a solution".

Her warning came as Mrs May told the first meeting of Cabinet since the Christmas break that she continues to seek assurances from the European Union to address concerns over issues like the proposed "backstop".

A "no-deal Brexit" is deemed to be the worst-case scenario, with serious implications for the UK's GDP, prices, stock and supply of medicines produced in Europe, movement of British and European citizens within Europe, and the ability of major UK-based banks and financial institutions to operate across Europe.

That trial of strength is a sign of the running battles that the Commons will face over the next week as the Brexit debate reaches its climax.

"Peeling off five of 10 Conservative Party MPs is neither here nor there, but if you get the DUP in line, May will give lots of parliamentarians an excuse to say, 'Well, OK, if they're happy with it I can't really justify going around moaning about the Irish backstop'".

Yet, the "concession", as Mr Lidington described it, has already been dismissed by the Democratic Unionists, who said: "We would be fools to accept any such assurance".

May, the party's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said the publication of the Irish government's "no deal' preparations before Christmas showed that the Irish government were not planning for a hard border".

European Union officials say the bloc will continue to advance its "no deal" planning and no more Brexit negotiation meetings are scheduled.

On Monday, Brussels said the agreed Brexit deal was "the best and the only deal possible" and the European Commission was focused on watching what happened in the vote.

  • Joey Payne