A number of MPs have raised serious concerns that parliament will not get a final say on the Brexit deal, as Theresa May and David Davis appeared to contradict each other on the issue.
Davis, the Brexit secretary, sparked the row on Wednesday when he told a parliamentary committee that negotiations between the UK and EU would go on until the "59th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day".
Asked whether that meant a vote in parliament could be after March 2019, he replied: "It could be, yes, it could be ... Well, it can't come before we have the deal."
But just over an hour later, the prime minister suggested that the vote would indeed take place before the deal was ratified, allowing MPs to have their say on the final terms.
At prime minister's questions, May said: "The timetable under the Lisbon Treaty does give time until March 2019 for the negotiations to take place.
"But I am confident – because it is in the interests of both sides and it is not just this parliament that wants to have a vote on that deal, but actually there will be ratification by other parliaments – that we will be able to achieve that agreement and that negotiation in time for this parliament to have the vote that we committed to."
After PMQs, her spokesperson added to the confusion by refusing to confirm that a vote would take place before March 2019. "A final deal will be agreed before we leave and MPs will get a vote on it," he said.
They added that Davis had been asked a a lot of "hypothetical questions" in his appearance before the Brexit committee.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer called on ministers to "urgently clarify" their remarks. "David Davis and Theresa May's comments only add to the confusion and chaos over the government's approach to the Brexit negotiations," he said.
"Labour has been clear from the outset that parliament must have the final say on the terms of Britain's exit from the European Union before March 2019."
A string of concerned MPs raised points of order with Speaker John Bercow on the issue after PMQs.
Labour's Chuka Umunna said former Brexit minister David Jones had committed to a vote on the final Brexit deal. Umunna accused Davis of making a "clear breach of the commitment given by his own minister" and pointed out that the Commons "cannot take back control unless we have that vote".
Former business secretary Pat McFadden said Davis' comments made a "material and significant difference to this House's ability to have a meaningful say on the content of those negotiations".
And ex-shadow minister Seema Malhotra said such a constitutional change should be put before the House in a ministerial statement.
Mr Bercow replied: "If there is a material change in government policy or intended practice on a very significant matter, it is customary that there should be a statement to the House."
Eloise Todd from the Best for Britain campaign, which is fighting against a hard Brexit, said: "David Davis’s statement that MPs may not get a meaningful vote on Brexit until after we have left the EU is the most brazen attempt so far to deny the country the last step in this democratic process.
"As the government knows well, the biggest decision is yet to come: the final say on the Brexit deal."
The Brexit department was later forced to issue a statement clarifying the situation.
A spokesperson for Davis said: "We are working to reach an agreement on the final deal in good time before we leave the EU in March 2019. Once the deal is agreed we will meet our longstanding commitment to a vote in both Houses and we expect and intend this to be before the vote in the European Parliament and therefore before we leave.
"This morning the secretary of state was asked about hypothetical scenarios. Michel Barnier has said he hopes to get the deal agreed by October 2018 and that is our aim as well."
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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