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Theresa May: Voting down Brexit deal would be 'catastrophic' for faith in democracy

4 min read

Theresa May will warn that MPs could do "catastrophic" damage to the public's faith in democracy if they fail to back her Brexit deal.

In a last-ditch bid to drum up support for her controversal agreement, the Prime Minister will say Parliament has a "duty to implement the result of the referendum" - and claim that the most likely scenario if they do not is that Brexit does not happen at all.

Mrs May will travel to Stoke - where 69% of voters backed Leave in 2016 - to deliver a keynote speech barely 24 hours before the Commons is expected to overwhelmingly expected to reject the deal she agreed with Brussels.

She will say that voters were assured before the referendum that the result would be implemented, so politicians have no option but to deliver.

"On the rare occasions when Parliament puts a question to the British people directly we have always understood that their response carries a profound significance," she will say.

"When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by both sides and the popular legitimacy of that institution has never seriously been questioned.

"Parliament understood this fact when it voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50. And both major parties did so too when they stood on election manifestos in 2017 that pledged to honour the result of the referendum."

Amid reports that rebel MPs could try to seize control of parliamentary business if the Brexit deal is defeated, Mrs May will say: "There are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so."

She will add: "I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.

"Imagine if an anti-devolution House of Commons had said to the people of Scotland or Wales that despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, Parliament knew better and would over-rule them. Or else force them to vote again.

"What if we found ourselves in a situation where Parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a Remain vote? People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.

"We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum."

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said the Prime Minister was in a state of "panic" as she faced a humiliating Commons defeat.

He said: "She cannot be allowed to pull the wool over the public's eyes. A chaotic no-deal Brexit is a choice and it is in the gift of the Government to prevent it.

"The Prime Minister must end the scaremongering and the uncertainty of a no-deal. If not, Liberal Democrats will use every tool at our disposal to ensure Parliament does."

Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi, of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign group, said: "If the Prime Minister thinks she can make an eleventh-hour attempt to scare us into voting for her dead as a dodo deal she is wrong. 

"On Tuesday MPs must stand up for those who were left voiceless and disenfranchised in 2016  - not by voting through a deal that will further divide and impoverish communities across the UK, but by voting it down."


Mrs May was given a boost, however, when Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown became the fourth Tory MP to change their mind to declare he would not be voting for the Brexit deal.

He told the BBC's Westminster Hour he still believed it is a "thoroughly bad deal", but that he feared Brexit may not happen if it is voted down.

He said: "I don’t like the backstop provisions in relation to Northern Ireland. I don’t like the provisions on not being able to leave on our own unilateral terms. I don’t like the defence provisions.  But in view of what happened in the House last week with the Speaker I just think that the possibility of no Brexit must be seriously considered.

"I’m a Brexiteer and I do want to see us leave on the 29 March. I’m fearful that a coalition in the House of Commons will somehow find a way of either extending Article 50 or, worse still, preventing us leaving altogether."

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