Conservative MPs are plotting with Labour to thwart key parts of the EU Withdrawal Bill - despite the government making a major concession with the offer of a veto on the final deal with Brussels.
Former ministers Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan are among those pledging to vote against plans to put the date we leave the EU on the domestic statute books.
But Tory Brexiteers warned that the public would not forgive them if they went against the result of the referendum.
Tonight sees the first of eight marathon parliamentary sittings in which the Government is braced for possible defeat on Brexit legislation by a coalition of Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and Tory Remainers.
In a significant concession last night, David Davis said the final Brexit deal would be enshrined in a dedicated Act of Parliament – meaning it could be voted down by MPs just weeks before the UK leaves in March 2019.
Pro-Remain MPs were initially wrong-footed by the intervention from Mr Davis, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer welcoming the ‘last-minute climbdown’.
But senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper has now tabled a new amendment demanding a guaranteed vote on the deal before Brexit day.
But last night Tory plotters indicated they would push ahead with a string of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill after Mr Davis said the UK would leave the EU without a deal if MPs voted down the deal agreed with Brussels.
Former attorney-general Dominic Grieve, who is leading a group of about a dozen Tory rebels, gave a cautious welcome to Mr Davis’s announcement, but said he would continue with his amendments unless the Government went further.
Mr Grieve, who has tabled 19 amendments, also made it clear he would oppose the Government’s decision to enshrine the Brexit date in law, describing it as an ‘incoherent and thoroughly stupid amendment [that] won’t have my support’.
Fellow Tory Antoinette Sandbach said Mr Davis’s announcement was ‘meaningless’ without further guarantees. Heidi Allen, another rebel, described the concession as ‘pointless’.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith yesterday warned that rebel MPs would put the future of the Government at risk if they inflicted defeats over the EU Withdrawal Bill, which paves the way for Brexit.
‘If people keep voting against the Government on this they make the Government’s position more untenable,’ he said.
Mr Duncan Smith also rounded on the Labour leadership after Sir Keir suggested Labour would accept a deal that kept Britain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) indefinitely.
Mr Duncan Smith accused Labour of betraying its voters, who backed Brexit in droves last year. ‘Staying inside the ECJ would be tantamount to staying in the EU,’ he said.
There chief executive of Germany’s biggest bank has rubbished European attempts to steal an essential part of London’s prized currency trading business, saying as few as 74 UK jobs would be lost.
Deutsche Bank boss John Cryan poured scorn on anti-Brexit campaigners’ claims that up to 100,000 roles could disappear from the City if so-called euro ‘clearing’ has to move. The business underpins the trade of trillions of euros every year and helps London maintain its supremacy over EU rivals.
Countries on the Continent have cast jealous eyes on the operation, hoping it will help them attract huge investment banks.
But Mr Cryan dismissed this as wishful thinking.
‘I don’t understand why the Europeans want clearing. There’s confusion about what it is. The idea of 74,000 jobs being at risk is ridiculous, it’s more like 74.’
Government lawyers have told ministers that the exit deal needs to be enshrined in law to minimise the risk of future legal challenges.
But they first have to pass the EU Withdrawal Bill, which begins its detailed scrutiny by MPs this afternoon. Parliament is expected to sit until midnight to debate the first of 188 pages of amendments tabled by pro-Remain MPs.
The legislation is designed to ensure a smooth Brexit by transferring all existing EU regulations into British law. But pro-Remain MPs view it as an opportunity to frustrate the Brexit process – and possibly even halt it.
Tory whips hope the concession from Mr Davis could win over enough wavering MPs to avoid a string of damaging defeats.
They also believe the rebels could be partly balanced by pro-Brexit rebels in Labour’s ranks, making it possible that the legislation will pass.
Party whips are expecting a string of tight votes over the coming weeks, and all leave has been cancelled.
The new offer from Mr Davis means the final Brexit deal will be enshrined in a dedicated Act of Parliament. Government sources played down the prospect of it being used to stop Brexit, saying any amendments to it would simply mean the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
Last night the Lord Mayor of the City of London called on Theresa May to agree a Brexit transition deal when she meets EU leaders in Brussels next month.
Charles Bowman suggested a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU would hit the City’s competitiveness, and insist that bankers and other financial workers would rather stay in London than move to Frankfurt.
Speaking at the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet, attended by the Prime Minister, Mr Bowman said it was vital a transition deal was ‘agreed early’ to give firms ‘time to prepare and adjust’.