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Minister: UK may not be able to proceed with MPs' Brexit deal amendments

File photo dated 31/03/17 of the Union flag and the EU flag flying from the same mast above the Summerhall building in Edinburgh. EU citizens living in the UK are in Brussels to urge members of the European Parliament and Commission to ensure their rights are guaranteed after Brexit. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday May 11, 2017. Anne-Laure Donskoy will tell MEPs that EU citizens' rights "to work, to marry, to have access to health services and education, to build a business" are "at risk" and should be "guaranteed and preserved not just for the short or medium term but permanently". See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

By Richard Wheeler and Dan O'Donoghue, Press Association Political Staff

Britain may not have time to negotiate a new deal if MPs decide to amend any Brexit agreement, a senior minister has suggested.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said the Government would "take action" on any amendments to the Brexit deal motion approved by MPs but added that it may not be possible for ministers to "proceed on the basis of an amended vote".

Her remarks came after Conservative former cabinet minister Ken Clarke warned the Government against offering MPs the choice of deal or no deal.

SNP Commons leader Pete Wishart also claimed that Prime Minister Theresa May could, in Game Of Thrones style, be "consumed by the flames" of Brexit as he pushed for assurances over the "meaningful vote".

Mrs Leadsom also announced the Commons business following next week's short November recess, with no further Brexit legislation listed but with time scheduled for a debate on the 70th birthday of the Prince of Wales.

Speaking at Business questions, Mr Clarke said Mrs Leadsom had confirmed a "meaningful vote" in response to questions from Mr Wishart.

Mr Clarke added: "She confirmed we're going to have meaningful votes because there are going to be amendments to that motion.

"She was of course right to say the Government can't ratify a draft agreement if the House rejects it, but will she accept that the meaningful votes on the amendments mean that if an amendment is passed, the Government will feel it should go back to Brussels and try to negotiate a deal as amended by the majority of this House?

"I hope she's not reverting to the arguments that it's the deal we've got or no deal at all, which the Government was defeated on when we were actually debating the Withdrawal Bill earlier this year."

Mrs Leadsom replied: "The facts of the case are that the Government will be bringing forward a vote on the deal that the Government has negotiated.

"It will be an amendable motion of the House, and, should the House amend that motion, then the Government would take action on those amendments.

"However, I must point out to the House again that, having negotiated a particular deal with the European Union, it may not be possible for the Government to proceed on the basis of an amended vote.

"While this House will be asked to decide whether it agrees for the Government to negotiate on the basis of the agreed deal or not will be a matter for this House."

Mr Wishart earlier compared the Prime Minister's Brexit strife to Game Of Thrones as he demanded further clarification on the current state of negotiations with the European Union.

He said: "The chill is in the air and, like winter, Brexit is coming.

"The undead white walkers of the ERG have breached the wall and Westminstros is under siege and, while the Prime Minister is no mother of dragons, she does have fire breathers to contend with; she might just be about to be consumed by the flames.

"In the battle with the 27 kingdoms apparently we're told to expect a deal on November 21 for a Brexit agreement only for Dexu to issue a statement downplaying the significance of this date.

"Can the Leader of the House explain what exactly is going on, when will we have this meaningful vote, on what conditions and what basis will it be put to the House and what range of options will we have to consider and can she assure us that this meaningful vote won't be a meaningless vote?"

Mrs Leadsom responded with her own quip, saying: "Well, he mentions various excerpts from the Game Of Thrones and all I would say to him is 'You know nothing, Jon Snow' and I'm afraid that is often the case in this place."

She added: "It is absolutely the case that this House will be invited to give its views and to lend its support to the deal that the United Kingdom will be seeking to agree with the European Union; it will be vital that we have that approval in order to proceed.

"Such a motion will be a motion of the House, it will be amendable, but to be very clear, as I said last week and I think the week before, it will be important that the Government has the permission of the House to go ahead with a deal that has been agreed. If it doesn't have that permission, then it will not be able to proceed with that deal."

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