A UK government's compromise to avoid a Commons defeat on Brexit has been rejected as unacceptable by leading rebel Dominic Grieve. Prime Minister Theresa May had convinced most rebels - who want MPs to have the final say - to back her in a key vote on Tuesday night by giving them assurances. But the wording of the promised compromise has now been published.
Mr Grieve, who had talks on Thursday with ministers, said he could not understand why the change was made. Allegedly Remain-leaning Tory MPs were furious and it set the scene for another big showdown when the bill returns to Parliament next week.
Mr Grieve said he had been involved in talks for two days and: at the end of the process something was inexplicably changed, which had not been agreed. The government has made the motion unamendable, contrary to the usual methods of the House of Commons. And therefore it cannot be accepted.
Asked what he would do next, on BBC One's Question Time, he said: I think a group of us will talk further to the government and try to resolve it. He added he would listen to the government but I hope they listen to me when I say I don't understand why you've done this last-minute switch.
Grieve said the problem was that if the UK reached the really apocalyptic moment where no Brexit deal had been done by early February 2019, Parliament was not being offered the chance to say what should happen next - only to note the position.
Solicitor General Robert Buckland said he wouldn't get into some Tory psychodrama about whether the prime minister had caved into Brexiteers' demands but stressed no deals were done and the amendment was a genuine attempt to find a way through.
And a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said it ensures that in all circumstances Parliament can hold government to account, while also allowing government to deliver on the will of the British people.
He added: But this remains hypothetical and the government is confident we will agree a good deal with the EU which Parliament will support.
The government's amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill sets out what must happen if the prime minister announces before 21 January 2019 that no deal has been reached with the EU either on the withdrawal agreement or the future relationship.
Under these circumstances, a minister must make a statement in Parliament within 14 days and give MPs an opportunity to vote. However, the vote would be on a motion in neutral terms, merely stating that the House has considered the statement.
Mr Grieve had originally wanted the amendment to say that the government must seek the approval of Parliament for its course of action - and that ministers must be directed by MPs and peers.
After the House of Lords changed the bill to give Parliament a more decisive say, MPs voted on Tuesday to reverse the move - but several pro-EU Tories say they held back from voting against the government because of promises they were made that their concerns would be listened to.
In the House of Commons on Thursday morning, Labor's Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer pressed Brexit Secretary David Davis on seemingly conflicting accounts of what the would-be rebels were offered.
Mr Davis would not be drawn on the details, saying the proposal would meet three criteria: that it does not overturn the referendum result, does not undermine negotiations and does not change the country's constitutional structure which involves the government negotiating.