Theresa May's backbench rebellion grows as MPs line up to fight Brexit 'power grab'

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Theresa May was being forced into concessions over Brexit laws today as three more Tory MPs joined a chorus against a “power grab” by ministers.

The scale of the potential revolt — with six MPs now voicing concern in public — means Mrs May has no choice but to offer concessions or risk losing her working majority of just 12, said MPs.

The Westminster rebellion gathered steam as senior European Union figures spoke out in an attempt to pressure the Prime Minister into paying a cash “divorce” bill to the EU.

Former European Council president Herman van Rompuy warned that Mrs May’s hopes of trade talks before she agrees to pay up were “in the neighbourhood of zero”. Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, was expected to give a similar warning in a speech later.

In Westminster, potential Tory rebels are unifying behind a plan for a cross-party committee of peers and MPs to consider every time a minister wishes to use so-called Henry VIII powers to make laws by “decree”.

Former European Council president Herman van Rompuy (PA)

Tory MP Bob Neill said he agreed with former Attorney General Dominic Grieve’s call for a challenge to such powers.

“There should be a committee, appointed by Parliament and not by the Government whips, to decide whether statutory instruments are merely technical or whether they have wider implications,” he said.

Backbencher Sarah Wollaston said: “Parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation is woefully inadequate as it is little more than a rubber-stamping exercise. It is essential that Parliament genuinely ‘takes back control’ of the power to scrutinise this.”

Former minister Stephen Hammond agreed that a triage committee could sort out what was important.

Meanwhile, Mr van Rompuy dismissed Mrs May’s hopes of going over Mr Barnier’s head to appeal to the 27 EU leaders to start trade talks next month. “The chances that we are ready in October are in the neighbourhood of zero,” he told Radio 4’s Today show.

He said the EU leaders “will not change — the unity of the 27 is the most important thing”.

The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, turned up the heat by urging leaders to delay a decision on trade talks to December.

But First Secretary of State Damian Green insisted: “I think that’s too pessimistic. Let’s see what happens between now and October.”

Brussels is expected to issue new position papers putting the onus on the UK to sort out the thorny problem of the border with Northern Ireland.

In the Commons today, the Government offered extra time for MPs to debate Brexit as part of the Withdrawal Bill timetable. Brexit Secretary David Davis told MPs that “important progress” had been made in talks.

As controversy raged over leaked immigration plans, government sources confirmed that plans to fingerprint people wishing to stay from the EU had been dropped. 

The UK Homecare Association warned that the leaked proposals to limit low-skilled EU migrants to a two-year stay in the UK could lead to staff shortages for older and disabled people. In London 14 per cent of all homecare workers are non-British EEA nationals, and 10 per cent in the South East.

Colin Angel, UKHCA’s Policy Director, said: “The combination of a massively under-funded system and a possible reduction in the numbers of available workers in the UK labour market is a perfect storm.”

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