David Davis urges MPs ‘not to tie PM’s hands’ over Brexit bill


David Davis has urged MPs to back the Brexit bill and insisted the UK would be prepared if it has to leave the EU with no deal in place.

The Brexit secretary urged MPs not to “tie the prime minister’s hands” over the issues of a final vote on the deal and EU citizens’ rights in the UK.

He said while they were preparing for a “no deal” Brexit he thought it was unlikely negotiations would break down.

The Brexit bill returns to MPs on Monday after two defeats in the Lords.

Peers backed the amendments to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK and to ensure Parliament has a vote on the deal in two years time.

And Labour says it will fight to keep them in the Bill, arguing they would not delay the timetable for invoking Article 50.

If MPs do pass it, Theresa May could trigger the formal process of Brexit as early as Tuesday.

The prime minister has said she will take the UK out of the EU even if Parliament votes against the deal she is offered.

Mr Davis, who will lead negotiations for the UK, addressed the two issues in an interview on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show. “It’s inconceivable to me that there wouldn’t be a vote on the outcome,” he said.

“But the simple truth is what I don’t want to do is to take a simple bill which is designed to do nothing more than to put the result of the referendum into law… please don’t tie the prime minister’s hands in the process of doing that, for things which we expect to attain anyway.”

‘No veto’

Pressed on whether a rejection by Parliament of the deal would send the UK back to the negotiating table, he said: “There is a limited time on this… it’s a two-year time on Article 50 so there’ll be a limit to which we can do that.

“Secondly what we can’t have is either House of Parliament reversing the decision of the British people – they haven’t got a veto.”

He said citizens’ rights in the UK and Europe would be “the first thing” discussed in Brexit talks and said he believed there was a “moral responsibility” to EU citizens but the issue had to be “resolved together” with other EU countries.

He also said the government was working on “a contingency plan” in case a deal could not be reached with the EU – after a report by the Foreign Affairs Committee said it had found no evidence of serious contingency planning by the government.

‘Not apocalyptic’

Mr Davis said he believed it was “not remotely likely” that there would be a complete breakdown in negotiations.

“The simple truth is, we have been planning for the contingency, all the various outcomes, all the possible outcomes. It’s not just my team, it’s the whole of Whitehall, it’s every single department. But, understand, it’s the contingency plan. The aim is to get a good outcome.”

His Cabinet colleague, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, told BBC Radio 5 live’s Pienaar’s Politics: “Certainly it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had no deal, but it would be preferential to have a deal”.

Meanwhile Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told ITV’s Peston on Sunday “it would be perfectly OK if we weren’t able to get an agreement but I’m sure that we will” adding: “I don’t think the consequences of ‘no deal’ are by any means as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend.”

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer urged the prime minister to consider keeping the “really important” amendments called for by the House of Lords.

He told Sky News: “The first one is to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are in this country… they’ve been left in limbo… The second one, make sure that Parliament has a vote on the deal in two years time.

He said the prospects of “crashing out without a deal” would be “a disaster”.

“You absolutely have to have a vote in parliament before that could possibly happen. So we’ll be fighting for those tomorrow,” he said.

The bill could complete its final stages on Monday if the Lords accepts the decisions made by MPs.

BBC political correspondent Susana Mendonca said Mr Davis was worried a handful of Conservative MPs might rebel, potentially allowing the amendments to stand.

Even if the bill passes the Commons unchanged, it will go back to the Lords, raising the possibility the amendments will be re-imposed, she added.




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