London – Prime Minister Theresa May planned to rally Conservative lawmakers late Monday ahead of voting on crucial Brexit legislation, amid fears that pro-EU rebels could oppose her government.
The lawmakers have a duty “to deliver on Brexit,” May said in advance remarks from a speech to be delivered on Monday evening to most of the 316 Conservative lawmakers in the 650-seat House of Commons, parliament’s elected main house.
The decision made by the British people
“We must be clear that we are united as a party in our determination to deliver on the decision made by the British people,” the BBC and other British media quoted her speech as saying.
Some pro-EU Conservatives have indicated that they could rebel when the EU Withdrawal Bill, which assimilates EU legislation into English law, returns to the Commons on Tuesday after the unelected upper house, the Lords, passed 15 amendments.
Sarah Wollaston, one of 12 Conservatives who helped to defeat May’s minority government on an earlier Commons amendment to the bill, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she was “minded” to rebel again on an amendment to strengthen parliament’s “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.
Another Conservative, Anna Soubry, rejected claims by eurosceptics that pro-EU rebels were hampering May’s Brexit plans.
“The people holding back Theresa May are the hard Brexiteers in her own cabinet and wider government who consistently undermine her as she steps forward to negotiate a soft and sensible Brexit,” Soubry wrote on Twitter.
Ken Clarke, a pro-EU former chancellor of the exchequer, said Tuesday’s session would give parliament “the opportunity of rescuing Theresa from all this [division] and begin to use the parliamentary majority in favour of a softer, sensible Brexit.”
“Parliament has the chance of putting parliament in control with a majority that will help the prime minister get trough this summit and start the big negotiations,” Clarke said, referring to an EU summit later this month.
It won’t be perfect
But pro-Brexit right-winger Jacob Rees-Mogg said he expected “some unity” in the party over the bill.
“It won’t be perfect, but it ought to be enough to get the bill through and to reinforce the strength of Theresa May’s position,” Rees-Mogg told London radio station LBC.
Many lawmakers from Labour, the biggest opposition party, are expected to support the government on most amendments.
But Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, has urged pro-EU Conservatives to vote with his party on the “meaningful vote” amendments and another amendment that would keep Britain in the EU customs union after Brexit.
May has relied on support in key votes from 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) since she lost her parliamentary majority in a snap election last year.