The House of Commons narrowly defeated the government’s Brexit bill, voting 309-305 Wednesday to insert an amendment that will explicitly require any Brexit withdrawal deal to be approved by a vote of Parliament.

The government’s EU Withdrawal Bill is the U.K. national legislation that will remove all EU law from British statutes on the day of Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May has sought greater latitude to negotiate and finalize a Brexit deal with the European Union without being explicitly subject to Parliamentary veto. The government has only indicated that Parliament would have a “meaningful vote” on the exit terms.

Some Tory MPs, led by Dominic Grieve, mounted a Conservative revolt, joining Labour and Liberal Democrats to pass the amendment. Grieve, a former attorney general, warned that without the amendment, the bill could lead to “constitutional chaos.”

Brexit secretary David Davis said after the defeat that the government will now consider whether to make further changes to the bill as it moves through Parliament.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there would be “no turning back” from commitments the U.K. made last week on phase one Brexit issues of EU citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and the divorce bill. Earlier this week, EU Council President Donald Tusk said it would be a “furious race against time” to complete Brexit negotiations in time. The parties will need to reach a Brexit deal by roughly September 2018 to give individual EU countries time to approve it before the deadline for the U.K.’s exit in March 2019.

BAL Analysis: Though a majority of MPs opposed the U.K. leaving the EU, they have repeatedly said they will honor the voters’ will. So while Wednesday’s vote will not reverse Brexit, it could give a stronger hand to those who want a softer break from the EU and closer future ties, potentially complicating the U.K.’s negotiating stance as it heads into Brexit trade talks early next year.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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