United Kingdom justice minister resigns ahead of key Brexit debate

Theresa May is to asks MPs to show unity this week as the Government's Brexit legislation returns to the Commons this week in a crucial vote.

The pro-EU faction got a boost when junior justice minister Phillip Lee resigned Tuesday, saying he could no longer support the government's "irresponsible" plans for Brexit.

Parliament will vote Tuesday on a key piece of legislation, the E.U. Withdrawal bill, that would transfer European Union laws now on British books into British law after Brexit.

Also on Tuesday, the government successfully overturned an attempt to remove the date of Brexit from the face of the bill.

The issue seen as most likely to provoke a rebellion was that of giving MPs a "meaningful vote" on the final Brexit deal.

Pro-Brexit members of the government want to be able to play the "no deal" card, but the House of Commons, where pro-EU voices are stronger, would nearly certainly reject the idea. Lee, who voted for Britain to remain in the E.U.in the 2016 referendum, said in a statement he was "incredibly sad" to resign but did so in order to vote against the government's position on a key amendment to the bill.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve had been a repeat rebel in previous debates, but he voted with the government after "personal assurances" from Theresa May - because he is "quite satisfied" MPs will end up with a meaningful vote anyway.

"Anything that undermines the government at home will make negotiations with the European Union more hard", May told a meeting of her cabinet.

At stake is her Brexit strategy and her ability to hold her party together as she fights to deliver a Brexit divorce deal in the next 10 months.

The amendment in question hinges on whether lawmakers will get a "meaningful" vote on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Her fellow Conservative backbencher Stephen Hammond said: "Parliament must be able to have its say in a "no deal" situation".

Pro-Brexit tabloid the Sun warned lawmakers on Tuesday's front page that they had a choice: "Great Britain or great betrayal".

In the last few days Remainers have been playing down the chances of a government defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill, as they keep their powder dry for the forthcoming Trade and Customs Bills. The Daily Express thundered: "Ignore the will of the people at your peril".

Meanwhile, Tory Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin told the government he would not accept ministers agreeing to Mr Grieve's demand for the House of Commons to assume control of Brexit negotiations in the event of no deal.

It is the legislation aimed at ensuring the United Kingdom has a smooth transition out of the EU.

"I absolutely trust what the Prime Minister says to us", he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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