An amendment by the Liberal Democrats to enshrine into law a new referendum on the final Brexit deal was defeated in the House of Commons last night.
Amendment 120 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill would have given ‘the people’ a final say on the deal that Theresa May brings back from Brussels.
There was hardly anyone in the Commons to vote on the proposed amendment and so it was easily defeated.
The LibDems claimed that their amendment was defeated by the Tories after Labour “failed to turn up.”
Commenting immediately following the defeat, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said:
“This is a shameful showing from the Labour party. They are meant to be opposing the government, but instead they are clocking off early for Christmas.
“Once again the Labour leadership have failed to take a stand over Brexit. They claim they are standing up for the many, but as soon as the opportunity comes to give the people a say on the nation’s future, they pull a sickie.”
The Liberal Democrats say that they would campaign to remain in the EU in a new referendum on the deal, as they believe no deal the government could negotiate would be better than the one currently enjoyed as a member of the EU.
Tom Brake Tweeted after the defeat:
‘Just voted to give you a Vote on the Deal and an Exit from #Brexit. Joined by Plaid, a handful of Labour MPs and Caroline Lucas. No Tories or SNP. Shame on them and the Labour front bench.’
During the Commons session, Mr Brake said in support of the amendment, “..the will of the people as expressed on 23 June last year is not necessarily the will of the people as expressed today.”
He added, “It is because I respect the will of the people that I believe that the people should be given the chance to vote on the final deal that the Prime Minister secures. There is absolutely no doubt that the final deal will look very different from the deal that they were offered on 23 June last year.”
Mr Brake explained that the new referendum “would require legislation, followed by a three-month election campaign, and then a vote that would have to take place before we finally leave the EU, but that is perfectly possible.”
He concluded by saying that the referendum would enable the UK population to have a vote on the deal. “They would be able to express their views on whether they still want to accept now what they were offered on 23 June last year.”
Although there were hardly any Labour MPs in the Commons, the LibDems amendment had the support of Geraint Davies, the Labour Co-operative MP for Swansea, who made a passionate speech in favour of another referendum.
He said, “People whom I meet in Swansea who voted in good faith to leave the EU on the basis of more money, market access and less migration, and to take control, are saying to me now, ‘This is not what I voted for.’
“They were told by the Foreign Secretary that they would have £350 million a week more for the NHS. The Financial Times has just told us that we will lose £350 million a week. The London School of Economics has told us that inflation is 1.7% higher than it would have been otherwise, at 2.7%.”
Mr Davies added, “The average worker is losing a week’s wages every year thanks to this decision. That is not what people voted for.
“They are told that they will have to pay a £40 billion divorce bill – £1,000 for every family. That is not what they voted for.
“In 2015, they were told by the Conservatives that we would be part of the single market, which we may not be. We are haemorrhaging jobs as various institutions relocate. That is not what people voted for.
“They were told that they would take back control, but it is clear from clause 9 of this shoddy Bill that Ministers are still seeking to take powers – Henry VIII powers – to change things as they think appropriate. That is not what people voted for.
“There are Members who seem to assume implicitly that nothing has changed, but the latest polling by Survation shows that half the people want a referendum on the exit package and only a third do not. What is more, 51% of people want to stay in the European Union and 41% now want to leave.
“The facts are changing, and as Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
He added, “The great majority of politicians here know that it is bad for Britain to leave, yet they are going ahead with it although the majority of people have woken up to the fact that it is not in their interests.”
Unfortunately, without the support of Labour’s front bench, the passion for another referendum as supported by Mr Davies and a few other Labour MPs, the LibDems, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, the amendment was doomed to failure.
Shame on Labour. They lost a golden opportunity to give ‘the people’ a final say on Brexit.
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