CHANCES of the Sino-British agreement on the Court of Final Appeal being passed in the Legislative Council were seriously hampered yesterday when the two biggest political parties closed ranks against it. Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said that it would support the Liberal Party's proposed amendment to the Court of Final Appeal Bill if its own proposal failed. The Liberal Party said yesterday that its proposed amendment aimed to set up the court before the handover in 1997 and provide greater flexibility in the composition of judges. Mr Lee said: 'The amendments are basically in line with our position. If our amendment proposal is rejected, then we will support the Liberal Party.' It means there will be at least 25 legislators supporting the proposal, with 15 from the Democratic Party and 10 from the Liberals. At present, only five of 15 Liberal Party legislators have said they will not toe the party line, including Preliminary Working Committee members Lau Wong-fat and Ngai Shiu-kit, Hong Kong affairs advisers Henry Tang Ying-yen and James Tien Pei-chun, and travel industry representative Howard Young. Several like-minded independents are likely to support the Liberals, including Emily Lau Wai-hing, Christine Loh Kung-wai, Anna Wu Hung-yuk and Frederick Fung Kin-kee, which takes the supporting vote to 29, only one less than the majority of 30. If they succeed, Beijing - which in the past has dismissed the council as a British rubber stamp - could well refuse to accept the result and act unilaterally to establish the court after 1997. Government spokesman Kerry McGlynn said last night that the government position remain unchanged. 'We will be lobbying hard until the last minute. The situation does change from time to time, it will not be clear until the voting,' he said. Liberal Party spokesman Moses Cheng Mo-chi said the proposal was in the best interest of Hong Kong, as setting up the court earlier would enable a smooth transition. Under the party's proposal, the clause which states that the court would be set up on July 1, 1997, would be deleted.