Prime Minister Theresa May
They spoke out amid fears that if MPs vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal with Brussels on Tuesday, December 11, the campaign for a so-called People’s Vote to challenge the 2016 result could triumph. In her first newspaper article since the deal was struck, Brexiteer Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom told the Daily Express that a second referendum “would be a gross betrayal of our democracy and damage the trust between people and Parliament”. Environment Secretary Michael Gove also warned a re-run referendum would undermine faith in democracy and he accused those calling for the vote of being “condescending” towards Brexit voters.
With both Leave and Remain MPs opposing the deal Mrs May struck with the EU it looks highly likely to be defeated next week – although Mr Gove insisted yesterday there was growing “sympathy and admiration” for the PM and the Government could “absolutely” win the “challenging” vote.
Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said it was “inevitable” that Labour would move a vote of no confidence in the Government if MPs vote down the deal – in a bid to force an early election to topple the government.
But with a two-thirds majority required in the Commons to hold an early election, Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis made clear the government would resist a snap poll.
“I don’t think anybody watching this programme, having had two general elections and a referendum in the last three years, is looking for a general election or will thank the Government for that,” he told Sky News.
Stickers and placards left after a march calling for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal
There are also fears that if MPs defeat the deal the momentum for a new referendum could become unstoppable.
Labour’s official policy is that if it cannot secure an election, all options should be on the table, including a referendum.
Key figures in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet are now urging the party to prepare to fight a referendum although there are splits on what options should be on the ballot paper.
Many Conservative MPs would also back a new referendum.
Andrea Leadsom said that a second vote would be a “gross detrayal” on our democracy
Sarah Wollaston Tweeted yesterday: “Time for Government and Labour leadership alike to recognise blindingly obvious: neither ‘deal’ nor general election will pass the Commons. In 117 days we run out of road so wasting time inexcusable. Extend Article 50 & take Deal vs Remain to the people.”
Mr Gove admitted Mrs May’s deal was “not perfect” and he did not deny he considered resigning over it.
But he said it was better than any of the alternatives, and he warned colleagues: “If we don’t get this deal through, there is a change of no Brexit at all, or a second referendum.
“There is a real risk that if we don’t vote for this deal, there may be a majority in the House of Commons for a second referendum, and there is also a risk that we may get a less good deal or no deal at all. All of those are less attractive that this deal.”
He said a new referendum would back Leave “probably in even larger numbers” than in 1987 but added “God forbid there should be another one”.
The Vote Leave chief told BBC One’s Andrew Marr: “The very act of calling a second referendum would damage faith in democracy and the social fabric of this country because it would confirm in the minds of many not just who voted Leave but also who voted Remain that the establishment are prepared to give you a choice but if you make the wrong choice you have to choose again.”
It would be damaging to tell 2016 Brexit voters who had never been listened to before that they were “too daft or too prejudiced last time round, think again.”
Mr Gove said claims that people did not know what they were voting for suggested Brexit voters were “too thick to make the decision … too dim. I fear many people would interpret the attitude of people arguing for a second referendum as condescending”.
Mrs May herself has repeatedly ruled out another referendum and she insists Britain will leave the EU on March 29 next year.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet are now urging the party to prepare to fight a referendum
Sarah Wollaston’s tweet
Today she will face yet another grilling by MPs in the House of Commons, as she updates them with a statement on the G20 leaders’ summit she attended this weekend in Argentina.
She will hail the opportunities she says her deal provides Britain to strike the new trade deals around the globe she says world leaders made clear they are keen to seal.
She is expected to say she went to the summit “with the clear message that Britain is open for business and that we are looking forward to future trade agreements.
“Once we leave the EU, we can and we will strike ambitious trade deals.
The vote is due on December 11
“For the first time in more than 40 years we will have an independent trade policy, and we will continue to be a passionate advocate for the benefits open economies and free markets can bring.”
Meanwhile the Government opened up a new front in its bid to win support for the deal, issuing a statement from Home Secretary Sajid Javid about how it will let Britain end uncontrolled free movement migration from the EU, as the British people demand.
“In just over a week’s time, MPs will vote on the Brexit deal the government has secured. My message to them is this: let’s take this chance to deliver an immigration system truly underpinned by public support.” he said.