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Dominic Grieve: Why the upset about his Amendment?

How odd.

After astonishing scenes in the House of Commons, in which Speaker John Bercow was subjected to a torrent of abuse for allowing a vote on the so-called Grieve Amendment, it seems Theresa May wants us to think she was planning to do as it demands in any case.

The Amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Act proposed a change to what must happen if MPs vote down Mrs May’s Brexit deal, as seems likely next Tuesday (January 15).

Originally, MPs settled on a complicated condition requiring the government to make a statement on what will happen next within 21 calendar days of the deal failing to win support, with a vote in the Commons within seven sitting days (days in which Parliament is conducting its business) after that.

Now, after MPs supported Mr Grieve’s Amendment by 308 votes to 297 – a majority of 11- Parliament will expect Mrs May to hold a ‘plan B’ vote on what happens next within three days of losing the “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal.

Downing Street released a statement just after 2pm yesterday – after the Grieve Amendment won MPs’ approval in spite of appalling displays from Conservative backbenchers (see my article on this) saying that if the vote is lost, the prime minister would come back to the House of Commons and set out her plans well before the 21-day time-limit set out in the withdrawal act.

“We would seek to provide certainty, quickly,” a government spokesman said.

So why did so many Conservatives object so strongly to Speaker John Bercow’s decision to allow this amendment and the vote on it?

It seems that, while Mrs May was probably planning not to wait 21 days before making a statement to the Commons, there is no evidence that she was planning a swift vote. It is more likely that she would have delayed that vote – some say in order to gain more concessions from Brussels, although that seems to be a pipe dream now.

We are still in uncharted territory. We don’t know what kind of statement Mrs May will make after she loses the vote next week (as everybody expects). And it seems doubtful that she will offer any choice that the public will find acceptable.

… Unless she bows to calls for a general election. We could all get behind that.

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