Conservative former minister Dominic Grieve has suggested he and the government have run out of road over his call for a meaningful vote on any Brexit deal.
The MP said what happens in such circumstances is “all rational discourse starts to evaporate”, adding the purpose of his amendment is “entirely lost in a confrontation” in which it is suggested he is seeking to “sabotage” the will of the people.
Mr Grieve said this is not the case, adding there has been hurling of public abuse – including “startling” comments from party colleagues, such as Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that he was grandstanding.
Mr Grieve’s so-called “meaningful vote” amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is signed by nine party colleagues and could inflict a first defeat on the government.
He wants the Bill amended to require any final Brexit deal to be approved by a separate act of Parliament before it could be implemented.
It seeks to make changes to clause nine of the Bill, which provides the government with the power to use secondary legislation to implement any Brexit deal – which would require less scrutiny from MPs.
Brexit secretary David Davis and Theresa May have attempted to offer guarantees to those Tories who may rebel, which could number up to 20, over the timing and importance of planned votes on the Brexit deal.
But Mrs May, speaking during prime minister’s questions, said of Mr Grieve’s proposal: “As currently drafted, what the amendment says, is that we shouldn’t put any of those arrangements, any of those statutory instruments, into place until the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill has reached the statue book.
“That could be at a very late stage in the proceedings, which could mean that we are not able to have the orderly and smooth exit from the European Union that we wish to have.”
Speaking during day seven of the Bill’s committee stage, Mr Grieve said his aim had been to help carry Brexit out as smoothly as possible with the least impact on UK citizens.
He said: “I very much regret that as often tends to happen in these matters, while some of the sessions we’ve had in committee have led to sensible amendment and the government considering matters or going away to look again and making some helpful suggestions, in the case of amendment seven, we seem to have frankly run out of road.
“What happens in those circumstances I regret to say is that all rational discourse starts to evaporate.
“The purpose of the amendment, the nature of it is entirely lost in a confrontation in which it is suggested that the underlying purpose is the sabotage of the will of the people, which it most manifestly is not.
“That’s then followed by the hurling of public abuse, large numbers of people telling one is a traitor.
“Some, I have to say with regret, of one’s honourable and right honourable friends saying things which I find slightly startling – such as [Mr Duncan Smith] saying I’m grandstanding when I don’t remember ever having suggested such a thing to him in the way he has expressed his views on Europe at any time in his career, including I might add when I tried to be a loyal member of his team when he was leader of my own party.
“We are losing sight that 48% of the electorate did not wish for the policy we are currently pursing and have deep concerns about not trying to reverse it, but the extent to which it will have an adverse impact on their well-being.”
He added: “We fail completely to look at means, we look at the top of the mountain, we don’t look where we are going to put our foot next.
“As a consequence we run serious risk of letting them down, all of them collectively very badly by enacting bad legislation and taking very foolish decisions.
“When this confrontation comes along immediately the negotiations stop, the conversation ceases, the government steamroller is invoked and suddenly the atmosphere can get really quite unpleasant.”
Tory backbencher Jacob William Rees-Mogg intervened in Mr Grieve’s speech to point out that the function of the Bill was to take the UK out of the EU.
Mr Grieve said: “If indeed we were leaving with nothing further to do that might be a good point.
“It seems to be pretty universal I think even on these benches, but perhaps doesn’t apply to him, that simply leaving to jump off the top of the tower block is not the best thing to do.
“Therefore there will need to be primary legislation to implement the undoubted new constitutional order that we will be having after 29 March 2019.”