MP amendments may help fend off no-deal

British houses of parliament seen across river at sunset

Two legal amendments by MPs have this week placed new constraints on British Prime Minister Theresa May and are said to have made a no-deal Brexit less likely.

One passed on Tuesday night would make it harder for the British government to raise extra taxes to cope with a no-deal Brexit situation unless MPs have specifically voted for no-deal; another passed last night says Mrs May must come back to MPs with her ‘Plan B’ in three full parliamentary days rather than 21 if her Brexit deal is voted down next Tuesday.

It means she must tell the House of Commons what the government’s intended Brexit alternative is, by Monday January 21 at the latest if her deal with the EU is rejected.

Should the MPs oppose the government’s proposed course of action at that point, a previous amendment means that MPs will then be able to change it to push for an alternative, such as a new referendum or a soft Brexit ‘Norway’ option (which would retain the automatic rights of British expatriates to live and work in the EU).

A no-deal outcome would leave Britons in France with no legal residency and work status after March 29, 2019, and with no transition period to cushion the blow, however both France and the UK have expressed their intentions to make arrangements to preserve key rights if it should happen.

It comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is calling for a new general election.

The government had thought last night's amendment tabled by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve would not be allowed a vote under parliamentary rules, however Speaker John Bercow gave the go-ahead. It was voted through 308 to 297, with 22 Conservative MPs, many of them former ministers, joining Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens in voting against the government.

Mr Grieve said: “We are now on very tight time tolerances to find a solution to the Brexit crisis, following the delay caused by the government pulling the vote in December.”

Number 10 downplayed Mr Grieve's amendment, saying that in any case “our intention has always been to respond quickly and provide certainty on the way forward in the event that we lose the meaningful vote”.

If there was a new general election of referendum, it is expected that Britons living outside the UK for more than 15 years will be excluded again.

The government has supported a private member's bill removing the 15-year restriction (a promise in the last two Conservative election manifestos), but such bills have limited parliamentary time for debate. It is due for a 'report stage' debate in the House of Commons on January 25, but will still need a third reading and then to pass through the House of Lords before it can become law. It was introduced on February 7 last year.

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