British PM survives crucial Brexit vote in parliament

May had warned that any attempt to tie her hands would undermine her chances of a good deal in the Brexit talks. (Reuters)
Updated 20 June 2018
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British PM survives crucial Brexit vote in parliament

  • Brexit Secretary David Davis issued a statement offering a clarification that the rebels said would ensure parliament would have a ‘meaningful vote’
  • Pro-Europeans are determined that parliament be given the opportunity to intervene to stop Britain crashing out of the bloc

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government saw off a rebellion by her pro-European MPs on Wednesday after making further concessions over parliament’s role in the final Brexit deal.
MPs in the House of Commons voted to reject a motion that would have strengthened the power of lawmakers to intervene if no deal is reached with Brussels before Brexit in March 2019.
Just hours earlier, Brexit Secretary David Davis issued a statement offering a clarification that the rebels said would ensure parliament would have a “meaningful vote.”
In the end, MPs voted by 319 to 303 reject a rebel amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which sets the legal framework for Brexit.
The government’s proposal was passed through without a vote.
Winning the vote is a huge relief for the prime minister, who has struggled to maintain her authority over a deeply divided government.
A defeat would also have been a humiliating setback as she heads to a summit next week with fellow EU leaders, although she still faces tough negotiations with Brussels.
May has offered parliament a vote on the final terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, but has been engaged in months of negotiations over what happens if it is rejected.
Pro-Europeans are determined that parliament be given the opportunity to intervene to stop Britain crashing out of the bloc, which they say could have catastrophic consequences.
But May had warned that any attempt to tie her hands would undermine her chances of a good deal in the Brexit talks, while euroskeptics accused the rebels of trying to block Britain’s exit.
The government last week agreed to an amendment stating that if there is no deal by January 21 next year, ministers must put a statement to a vote in parliament.
This vote would be on a “neutral motion,” however, meaning it would not be open to any amendments that might force the government into a course of action.
Pro-European rebels in the ruling Conservative party said this rendered the vote meaningless, and warned they would vote against it and instead back their own rebel proposal.
In his last-minute statement, Davis acknowledged that under House of Commons rules, “it will be for the Speaker to determine whether a motion... is or not amendable.”
Leading rebel Conservative Dominic Grieve said this was an “obvious acknowledgement of the sovereignty of this place (parliament),” and confirmed he would back the government.
Another rebel, former minister Nicky Morgan, tweeted: “On this basis parliament’s vote is meaningful — and I will support govt amendment.”
While May won the day, the high-stakes vote is a reminder of how difficult her situation is.
Her Conservative party commands only a slim majority in the 650-seat Commons and relies on the support of Northern Ireland’s 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs.
In a sign of how close Wednesday’s vote was, heavily pregnant and sick MPs were called in to cast their ballots, including one in a wheelchair.
Further clashes are due in the coming weeks, notably when bills on Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU are debated by MPs.
The main opposition Labour party had backed the rebel amendment on Wednesday but has its own euroskeptic rebels.


UK police think boy, 3, was attacked with acid at store

British police officers speak to members of the public in St Pancras station in London, in this file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 32 min 13 sec ago
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UK police think boy, 3, was attacked with acid at store

  • Police also report that innocuous liquids sometimes are thrown into the face of mugging targets to make them think they have been hit with a corrosive substance, panic and give up their valuables more easily
  • Most of the attacks have happened in London, but they have been reported in many parts of Britain

LONDON: A 3-year-old boy suffered severe burns on his face and arm during a suspected acid attack in England that investigators think was deliberate, police said Sunday.
West Mercia police Chief Superintendent Mark Travis said police were working to identify the substance that burned the child Saturday at a discount store in Worcester.
A 39-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. Three others were being sought for questioning and police released photos to generate public tips.
“At this time we are treating this as a deliberate attack,” Travis said in a statement. “The incident will rightly shock the local community, and I would like to reassure local people that we are carrying out a thorough investigation.”
British police have reported seeing an increase in acid attacks during the last year, but it is very rare for a victim to be so young. Some attacks are related to gang fights or late-night bar confrontations.
Most of the attacks have happened in London, but they have been reported in many parts of Britain. A London teenager was given a prison sentence of more than 10 years this year after being convicted of spraying acid into the faces of moped drivers so he could steal their mopeds.
Police also report that innocuous liquids sometimes are thrown into the face of mugging targets to make them think they have been hit with a corrosive substance, panic and give up their valuables more easily.
Robin Walker, the Worcester representative in Parliament, said lawmakers are considering allowing tougher sentences for people convicted of any type of intentional assault with acid.
He described what happened to the 3-year-old boy as “horrific.”
A police statement late Sunday afternoon said the boy had been discharged from the hospital. He has not been identified.