MPs reject calls to ‘take back control’ of agenda to halt no-deal Brexit

MPs in the House of Commons.

MPs in the House of Commons - Credit: House of Commons/PA Wire.

MPs have rejected an opposition day motion to seize control of House of Commons business again in a bid to halt a no-deal Brexit.

The move by Labour would have allowed MPs to regain control of the agenda on June 25 in order to stop the UK exiting the EU without a deal in the autumn.

It had sparked fury among Tory Eurosceptics, who are hoping to install a Brexiteer prime minister who will not take it off the table.

But it was lost by 298 votes to 309 votes - a government majority of 11.

While a number of Conservative MPs rebelled against the government, a number of Labour MPs rebelled against Jeremy Corbyn, with even more abstaining.

The bid, supported by other opposition parties and Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, aimed to pave the way for parliament to block a no-deal Brexit and introduce a "safety valve" into the process.

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Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told the chamber: "The motion before the House is a simple proposition, namely that on June 25 parliament and not the executive shall have control of the business of the House.

"That would ensure that there's an opportunity for this House to bring forward a further business motion to set out at that later date a schedule for the stages of a parliamentary bill related to our departure from the EU."

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He said the motion did not introduce legislation and did not prevent the government from trying to pass a Brexit deal, adding: "It means that if the next PM is foolish enough to try to pursue a no-deal Brexit without gaining the consent of this House or to prorogue parliament in order to force through no-deal then parliament would have the means to prevent that."

He went on: "So it is a motion that empowers parliament, it will introduce a safety valve in the Brexit process and it will be a reminder to all Conservative leadership candidates that this House will take every step necessary to prevent a no deal."

Sir Keir took aim at the leadership race, noting: "It's become an arms race to promise the most damaging form of Brexit or to make the most absurd or undeliverable promises.

"No wonder [Johnson] is the frontrunner against that criteria."

Sir Bill Cash, Tory chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, described the proposal as a "phantom motion for a phantom bill".

He added: "It's an open door motion and it just simply opens the door for any Bill of any kind to take precedence over government business."

As the result was announced and Tories cheered the Labour leader shouted at ministers: "You won't be cheering in September."

Conservative MP and Best for Britain supporter Guto Bebb said: "A no-deal Brexit would be an unrivalled disaster for this country. It's shocking that candidates seeking to be the next prime minister are pushing such a damaging future by gagging elected politicians.

"This may not have worked, but it does highlight the urgent need for parliamentarians from across the House to work together to prevent a deeply undemocratic attempt to force through Brexit."

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