Tory MPs line up to defend 'mutineers' from Daily Telegraph's attack

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Criticism of the bill was initially focused on its provisions to give powers to ministers to amend the European Union law as it is moved across.

A Daily Telegraph front page vilifying 15 Conservative MPs as a band of "Brexit mutineers" appeared to backfire on Wednesday as the newspaper was accused of bullying and the rebels claimed the description as a badge of honour.

Senior Conservatives including former chancellor Ken Clarke and former attorney general Dominic Grieve are among the backbench Tories pictured on the Telegraph's front page because they oppose a government amendment.

Another, Anna Soubry, said it was a "blatant piece of bullying" and insisted none of those named wanted to delay or thwart Brexit.

Brexit minister Steve Baker, one of the highest profile Eurosceptic MPs, condemned the Telegraph's front page.

Last week the prime minister vowed that the United Kingdom would leave the EU at 11pm on March 29, 2019, and tabled an amendment to her European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

MPs will discuss the bill at committee stage for two days every week for the next month, scrutinising it line by line.

A series of attempts to rewrite the legislation were seen off with Government majorities ranging from 20 to 266.

Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 5 live the bill, which is now being debated line-by-line by MPs, was "the most important constitutional thing we will do for 50 years" adding: "We might as well do it right".

"But we want a proper Brexit, one that works for jobs and industry, that's what we're trying to get".

To that effect, it has tabled its own amendment putting the date of Britain's departure onto the face of the bill, which was being debated later on Tuesday, although not taken to a vote.

Keir Starmer, Labour's chief Brexit spokesman, said the proposal was "a significant climbdown from a weak government on the verge of defeat".

He said: "Of course I shall be voting with the government tonight, but I very much hope after this debate - as did not happen after second reading - that the government will go away and think about clause six".

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