The push for a final say referendum has taken decisive steps forward in London and Brussels just a week before parliament is expected to reject Theresa May’s Brexit plan. On Tuesday MPs made the significant move of backing a plan to give the Commons more power to dictate what happens if the prime minister’s approach…
On Tuesday MPs made the significant move of backing a plan to give the Commons more power to dictate what happens if the prime minister’s approach is ditched.
The twin developments deliver both a means for MPs to secure a new referendum and legal clarity that they could halt the Brexit process if the public then decided to remain in the EU.
The government’s weakness was once again underlined as it lost three consecutive votes – including one unprecedented defeat which resulted in Ms May’s administration being held in “contempt of parliament” for refusing to publish legal advice on the proposed Brexit deal.
At the start of the week campaigners delivered petitions carrying almost 1.5 million names to Downing Street, which demanded the British public have a Final Say on Brexit through a people’s vote.
While Ms May remains adamant there will be no new referendum, MPs are already looking ahead to how parliament can impose its will if her deal is rejected in the commons vote on 11 December – something which now seems inevitable.
Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs tabled and won a vote on a motion significantly increasing the ability of parliament to steer the path of government if Ms May’s plan is defeated.
Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom had urged MPs to “focus on the matter at hand” rather than what would happen if Ms May’s deal falls, but in the end the motion was passed by 321 votes to 299.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who had led the drive, told MPs: “The reality remains that we have an unsatisfactory procedure to resolve differences of opinion in this house, if and obviously it’s an if, we come to a point where the government does not succeed on its motion.
“The opportunity exists this afternoon to cure that anomaly.”
Under the process already laid down, the government must within 21 days make a statement on how it will proceed if it loses the 11 December “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Currently parliament would effectively only get to consider that plan, but after last night’s motion was passed it can now table and vote on amendments to it.