Theresa May’s “new Brexit deal” will offer MPs a vote on whether to hold a second referendum.
The Prime Minister announced today that Parliament would have “one last chance” to deliver Brexit by voting in favour of her EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
Speaking in central London, Mrs May outlined how the proposals differ to the previous deals rejected by Parliament – including a commitment in law to let Parliament decide on the customs issue.
Mrs May also said that there would be a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum.
Mrs May said: “I recognise 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 and this must take place before the Withdrawal Agreement can be ratified.”
Mrs May warned this was the last chance to avoid “a nightmare future of permanently polarised politics” and her deal would be guaranteed to last for “at least this Parliament”.
She also said that a new Workers Rights Bill would be introduced to ensure UK workers enjoy rights that are “every bit as good as, or better than, those provided for by EU rules.”
She said further amendments would be discussed with trade unions and businesses.
The deal, Mrs May says, sets out that the Government will seek to conclude Alternative Arrangements to replace the controversial Irish backstop by December 2020, “so that it never needs to be used”.
Should it be used, she said the Government was committed to keeping Great Britain aligned with Northern Ireland.
MPs will have to approve the negotiating objects and final treaties for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
And Mrs May said there would be “no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU”.
She also pledged that the UK would seek “as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible” while outside the single market – while ending free movement.
And the UK will “keep up to date” with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at the border.
Mrs May said there would be a legal duty to secure changes to the political declaration to reflect the new deal.
In a plea to MPs, she said: “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.”
Mrs May’s Brexit bill has already been heavily defeated several times in Parliament.
And the beleaguered PM insisted that if MPs voted against the second reading of the Bill they would be “voting to stop Brexit.”
She said: “If they do so the consequences could hardly be greater – reject this deal and leaving the EU with a negotiated deal any time soon will be dead in the water and what would we do then?
“… If not no-deal then it would have to be a general election or a second referendum that could lead to revocation and no Brexit at all.”
Criticism for Mrs May’s announcement came almost immediately as she spoke this afternoon.
As she began, Labour’s whips office tweeted that it was a shame she had not made the speech in Parliament, adding: “presumably because she knows her warring Cabinet & party would clearly give away that they don’t support her”.
A similar point was made by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who tweeted that the speech should have been made directly to the House of Commons.
“Why is the Prime Minister making a speech about a so called new Brexit deal away from Parliament,” he wrote. “This is a breach of responsibility.
“Any such statement should be made in Parliament, quite simply this is treating Parliament with contempt. This is not good enough.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “The PM is asking MPs to vote for a Bill that takes us out of the EU – in Scotland’s case against our will – out of the single market and possibly out of the Customs Union. And with no actual commitment to putting the deal to a second referendum. @theSNP will not do that.”
She continued: “In PM’s own words, ‘if MPs vote against the Bill, they will be voting to stop Brexit.’ That is what @theSNP will do because Scotland did not vote for Brexit. #StopBrexit.”
There was criticism too from within Mrs May’s own party.
Conservative MEP David Bannerman tweeted: “On PM speech this illusory attempt to keep as close as possible to ‘frictionless trade’ – now by law – has been the problem all along.
“Led to Chequers to Customs FA. Just go to SuperCanada FTA! Now a vote on 2nd Ref! This is a total sellout by May & she must go immediately.”
MP Simon Clarke tweeted: “So if we pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at 2nd reading, we allow a Remain Parliament to insist upon a 2nd referendum and a Customs Union? This is *outrageous*.
“I supported the PM at MV3, to try to get us out on 29 March. But this speech from the PM means there is no way I will support the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.”
Support for the PM came from International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, who said “Theresa May is right – we need to get Brexit done. The delay and uncertainty is doing real damage to businesses and consumer confidence across the country.
“Then – when we have got it over the line – we can move on and talk about the wider issues that really matter to people, while crafting the future of British foreign policy.”