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Theresa May refuses to rule out second Brexit vote if MPs reject deal

A cross-party group of lawmakers has tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill that will work its way through Parliament next week

Alex Morales & Tim Ross | Bloomberg  |  London 

Theresa May refuses to rule out second Brexit vote if MPs reject deal

UK Prime Minister Theresa May urged members of Parliament to back the she’s struck with the European Union in a key vote later this month. But speaking to the BBC, she declined to rule out the possibility of a second referendum on European Union membership if the House of Commons rejects her plan.

A cross-party group of lawmakers has tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill that will work its way through Parliament next week. They want to change the bill, which would implement the government’s budget plans, to ensure that the “no deal” provisions in the legislation couldn’t be implemented without Parliament agreeing. Their goal is to ensure that a “no deal” Brexit could only be delivered with the explicit consent of Parliament — something that is unlikely given a majority of lawmakers oppose such an outcome.

“Many of us have been clear that Parliament will not allow a ‘no deal’ situation to unfold, and with less than 12 weeks to go until March 29 it is time for Parliament to show our opposition to a “no deal” exit,”

Nicky Morgan, a former cabinet minister who now chairs the Treasury Select Committee, wrote in an emailed statement.

Morgan joined Labour lawmakers Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn, chairs of the parliamentary committees overseeing home affairs and Brexit, in putting her name to the amendment. Other members of the ruling Tories to do the same included Oliver Letwin, Nick Boles and Sarah Wollaston. Speaking on BBC Television’s Andrew Marr Show, Theresa May did not rule out bringing her back for multiple votes, or allowing a second referendum to take place, if that’s what Parliament forces her to do.

She declined to give a clear answer on whether she could push the House of Commons to vote on her deal repeatedly if politicians reject it the first time. When asked if she’d rule out another referendum, she was also careful with her words, saying she’d argue against it.

“In my view there should not be a second referendum,” May said. “It would divide our country.” She also noted that it’s impractical from a logistical perspective, saying there isn’t time to hold one before Britain’s scheduled departure date of March 29, and that the government would have to extend its Article 50 talks with the EU.

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Asked whether she would support a “no deal” Brexit instead, she also failed to give a straight answer, hinting that she would fight hard for her “good deal.” One option could be for the government to delay Brexit and extend the Article 50 negotiating period. May said this would be a decision for her government, not for Parliament, to take. The premier knocked down talk of a renewed delay to a Parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, confirming it will take place around January 15.

“We are going to hold the vote,” May told Marr. “The debate starts next week and the debate carries on into the following week.”

While avoiding answering a question on whether she’d hold repeated votes to try to get the deal through Parliament, May said “nobody has put forward an alternative” that delivers on the referendum result and on protecting and the economy. She added a warning to her Parliamentary colleagues who are threatening to oppose her deal: “Don’t let the search for the perfect becoming the enemy of the good, because the danger there is we end up with no Brexit at all.”

Barry Gardiner, trade spokesman for the Labour Party, told Sky News the opposition’s policy remains to seek a general election if May can’t get her through Parliament.

That’s despite a YouGov poll on Saturday showing that three-quarters of Labour voters favor a second referendum. The poll of 25,000 people was conducted for People’s Vote, which campaigns for just such an outcome. Gardiner said if Labour won an ensuing election, it would abandon May’s red lines and seek to negotiate a new deal with the EU on Brexit.

First Published: Mon, January 07 2019. 01:38 IST
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