On Thursday afternoon, huge numbers of ministerial Range Rovers swept into Parliament after government whips got whiff of an SNP plot to mess with the government’s Brexit plans. Believing the SNP were planning to call for a last-minute vote on next week’s business involving the Brexit bill, Tory MPs came back to make up the numbers. In the end, the ambush failed to materialise but the incident is a sign of the tactics to come now that Brexit has entered its parliamentary phase.
The government bill, which contains just two clauses and is 137 words long, states that its aim is to ‘confer power on the prime minister to notify, under article 50(2) of the treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU’. In a statement, David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said he trusted Parliament to ‘respect the decision taken by the British people and pass the legislation quickly’.
Not that Davis is taking any chances – the bill has been drafted with the near impossible aim of being amendment-proof. But this will not stop opposition parties from trying. The SNP promised – before even seeing the bill – to put forward no fewer than 50 amendments. In contrast, Labour has opted to keep their amendments to single figures. These include giving Parliament the first say on any deal and guaranteeing legal rights for EU nationals living in the UK.