Theresa May offers MPs vote on second referendum in last-ditch bid to pass Brexit deal

Posted On: 
21st May 2019

Theresa May has offered to give MPs a vote on whether to hold a second EU referendum as she launched a last-ditch bid to win backing for her Brexit deal.

Theresa May delivers her speech in Charing Cross, central London
Credit: 
PA Images

In a dramatic move, the Prime Minister said the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will include a requirement for the Commons to vote on calls for a so-called "People's Vote".

If it was to pass, she vowed that the Government would make time available for the necessary legislation to be passed setting up another referendum.

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But she warned supporters of another vote that in order to make their dream a reality, they would first need to vote for the WAB.

Mrs May also unveiled a package of measures she repeatedly called a "new deal" aimed at trying to woo both Labour MPs and Tory eurosceptics to finally back her deal when it is voted on at second reading in the Commons next month.

They included guarantees to match EU standards on workers' rights and the environment, as well as a vow to put the Government under a legal obligation to find "alternative arrangements" to the controversial Irish backstop before the end of 2020.

And on customs - the main bone of contention during the fruitless six weeks of talks between the Government and Labour - the PM said Parliament would get to decide on the best way to break the impasse.

But it was her pledge on a second referendum which could prove to be the most controversial element of the WAB.

Speaking in central London, Mrs May said she recognised "the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue".

 "The Government will therefore include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at introduction a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum," she said.

"This must take place before the withdrawal agreement can be ratified. And if the House of Commons were to vote for a referendum, it would be requiring the Government to make provisions for such a referendum – including legislation if it wanted to ratify the withdrawal agreement.

"So to those MPs who want a second referendum to confirm the deal: you need a deal and therefore a Withdrawal Agreement Bill to make it happen. So let it have its second reading and then make your case to Parliament."

OPPORTUNITY

Mrs May warned that if MPs rejetced her attempts to find "common ground" between the rival Brexit factions, the UK could end up staying in the EU.

"There will opportunities throughout the Bill for MPs on all sides to have their say," she said. "But I say with conviction to every MP of every party – I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too.

" We have been given a clear instruction by the people we are supposed to represent. So help me find a way to honour that instruction, move our country and our politics forward, and build the better future that all of us want to see."