Remainer MPs’ plot to force second referendum is in chaos: Bid to attach ‘confirmatory’ public vote to Boris Johnson’s deal is dropped as not enough Tory rebels would back the plan
- Remainer MPs hoped to amend the PM’s deal to add a ‘confirmatory’ public vote
- Campaigners decided not to force a Commons showdown as they are not confident that enough former Tory MPs will support them, sources said
- Government has repeatedly made clear its opposition to a second public vote
Plans to attach a second Brexit referendum to Boris Johnson’s Brexit agreement collapsed into chaos (pictured: The PM in Brussels, October 17)
Plans to attach a second Brexit referendum to Boris Johnson’s Brexit agreement collapsed into chaos yesterday.
Remainer MPs had hoped to amend the Prime Minister’s deal to add a ‘confirmatory’ public vote – ensuring it had to be approved by the public before Brexit could take place.
But last night campaigners decided not to force a Commons showdown on the issue tomorrow as they are not confident that enough former Tory MPs will support them, sources said.
Instead, they will attempt to defeat the PM’s deal first – then, if it fails, table a motion for a second referendum when more MPs are likely to vote for it.
The plan to amend the deal is thought to have been quietly pulled in order to give it the best chance to succeed in future.
A source familiar with the campaign said: ‘The focus on Saturday has to be stopping the deal. The best chance of getting a “People’s Vote” may well be after this deal is defeated.’
Had MPs managed to successfully amend the deal to add a second referendum it is likely Downing Street would have pulled it entirely before it actually came to a final vote. Mr Johnson’s government has repeatedly made clear its implacable opposition to a second public vote.
The decision by Remainer MPs to back away yesterday followed confusion over whether Labour would actually back a second referendum in a vote on ‘Super Saturday’.
Former Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin had led the attempt to change the timetable for the sitting – allowing for amendments to be tabled and voted on
Speaking soon after it was announced a deal had been done, party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote.’
However, he added he did not ‘suspect’ that the option of holding a second referendum vote would arise on Saturday, when Parliament is due to give its verdict on Mr Johnson’s agreement.
He then described reports that Labour could back such a vote as ‘high-level speculation on a hypothetical question’.
In a sign of the deep split within the party, members of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have since said they plan to make the ‘argument’ for a second referendum to the Prime Minister themselves.
Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote’
The Liberal Democrats said they would vote for the deal at its third reading if a referendum was attached to it.
Former Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin had led the attempt to change the timetable for tomorrow’s sitting – allowing for amendments to be tabled and voted on.
It passed by 287 votes to 275, and means an amendment to Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans to include a proposed second referendum is now possible. Sir Oliver suggested that it could close a loophole in the so-called Benn Act – which requires the PM to seek a Brexit delay if he does not have a deal by October 19. The law only compels the PM to seek an extension if MPs fail to pass a motion.
He told MPs: ‘That will enable those of us, like me, who wish to support and carry through and eventually see the ratification of this deal, not to put us in the position of allowing the Government off the Benn Act hook on Saturday.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels, October 17
The original plan advanced by proponents of a ‘confirmatory vote’ was that MPs would pass an amendment making the Brexit deal conditional on a referendum. Once it was amended, they would then vote with the Government for the deal.
But a number of Labour MPs have concerns about anything that would appear to be offering support to Mr Johnson, and a potentially larger group have concerns about supporting a referendum at all.
Earlier this month, 19 Labour MPs in favour of leaving the EU with a deal wrote to Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, asking the pair to ‘work night and day’ to secure a Withdrawal Agreement they could back.
It remains to be seen whether those backbenchers will support Mr Johnson tomorrow.
Yesterday, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove told BBC Politics Live there would not be a second referendum.
‘Ain’t gonna happen,’ he said. ‘Ain’t gonna be no second referendum. It just won’t happen.’