Theresa May hopes MPs can ‘come together’ on Brexit

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House of Commons

Theresa May says she hopes Parliament can “come together” despite MPs’ differences over Brexit strategy.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, she said the government was “listening carefully” to those who were trying to change its flagship EU bill.

It comes after rebel MPs vowed to oppose Downing Street’s bid to enshrine the precise date of Brexit in law.

Several Tories brushed off criticism of their stance, including being labelled “mutineers” in a newspaper attack.

The Daily Telegraph’s front page was also condemned by a government minister, and later in the Commons Mrs May was asked to agree that part of MPs’ jobs was to scrutinise legislation.

She replied that while the UK was definitely leaving the EU, there was a “lively debate” going on with strong views being aired on both sides of the House.

“We are listening carefully to those who wish to improve the bill and I hope we can all come together to deliver on the decision that this country took,” she added.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is a key part of the government’s strategy for leaving the EU following last year’s referendum.

It aims to stop EU law from applying in the UK and avoid confusion on Brexit day – 29 March 2019 – by putting all existing EU law onto the UK statute book.

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House of Commons

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Nicky Morgan, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry featured in the Telegraph’s list

But there have been hundreds of suggestions by MPs to change the way it is worded and the government only has a majority with the help of the 10 Democratic Unionist MPs.

Ex-minister Stephen Hammond told BBC Radio 5 live the bill, which is currently being debated line-by-line by MPs, was “the most important constitutional thing we will do for 50 years” adding: “We might as well do it right.”

The government were “boxing themselves into a corner” in using the bill to specify the exact date and time of Brexit – 23:00 GMT on 29 March 2019 – he said, because the UK would be “hamstrung” if the negotiations needed to be extended at the last minute.

“It’s not about frustrating Brexit, it’s about getting the best economic deal for this country,” he added.

Mr Hammond said the Telegraph’s front page, picturing him and 14 colleagues with the headline “the Brexit mutineers”, was “silly” and criticised colleagues “lecturing” him on party loyalty.

Media captionKen Clarke attacks government over Brexit bill

Media captionWhat’s going on with the EU Withdrawal Bill?

Several more of those named hit back at the headline on Twitter.

Pro-EU ex-minister Anna Soubry, described it as a “blatant piece of bullying that goes to the very heart of democracy”.

Another potential rebel, Jonathan Djanogly, tweeted “to me this is about upholding our constitution and negotiating position”, and Bob Neill said “the bullies will not succeed”, adding: “We will continue to work constructively for the best Brexit possible – that’s our duty – and what parliamentary democracy is all about.”

Also among the critics was Brexit Minister Steve Baker, who tweeted: “I regret any media attempts to divide our party.

“My Parliamentary colleagues have sincere suggestions to improve the Bill which we are working through and I respect them for that.”

MPs began eight days of detailed scrutiny of the bill on Tuesday evening, with ministers seeing off the first attempts to change the legislation.

The debate continues on Wednesday, with the key vote on the Brexit date amendment not expected until next month.

Theresa May hopes MPs can ‘come together’ on Brexit}

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