Let vot­ers de­cide on May’s deal, MPs sug­gest


LON­DON • Pro-EU MPs will Mon­day raise the stakes in the bat­tle over Brexit by pub­lish­ing draft leg­is­la­tion to force a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum that could re­verse the re­sult of the 2016 vote.

A cross-party group of MPs, in­clud­ing Do­minic Grieve, the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive at­tor­ney gen­eral, wants Theresa May to give Par­lia­ment a greater say in de­cid­ing how Bri­tain leaves the Euro­pean Union.

It comes after re­ports emerged on the week­end of a planned “coup” by un­named se­nior MPs to grab con­trol of the par­lia­men­tary timetable by al­low­ing back­benchers’ leg­is­la­tion to take prece­dence over the gov­ern­ment’s.

MPs are to vote on the PM’s deal Mon­day, with 10 Down­ing Street braced for a de­feat by an un­prece­dented ma­jor­ity of more than 200.

The cross-party draft leg­is­la­tion pub­lished by Grieve, the Lib­eral Demo­crat leader Sir Vince Ca­ble and Lord Lis­vane, the for­mer clerk of the House of Com­mons, pro­poses an­other ref­er­en­dum in which vot­ers would be given a choice be­tween May’s deal or stay­ing in the EU.

The draft law could in the­ory be tabled as early as Mon­day next week, if May loses Tues­day and she has to come back to the Com­mons with a new plan for de­liv­er­ing Brexit. It will re­quire the Speaker, John Ber­cow, to sus­pend cen­turies-old rules and make it eas­ier for MPs to ta­ble laws that can be passed.

Grieve, who in­sists he is not work­ing with Ber­cow to over­turn Brexit, said last night: “This bill pro­vides a le­gally cred­i­ble way for­ward, and a po­lit­i­cally cred­i­ble way for­ward. With no ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment for the deal, or for ‘no deal’, the leg­is­la­tion pro­vides the gov­ern­ment with an es­cape hatch.”

The MPs would also have to ta­ble a new law to re­move the March 29 Brexit date from ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion.

Ber­cow has been heav­ily crit­i­cized by MPs for his han­dling of last week’s Brexit de­bate, where he was ac­cused of ig­nor­ing par­lia­men­tary con­ven­tion to frus­trate the gov­ern­ment’s at­tempts to take Bri­tain out of the EU.

How­ever, Jeremy Cor­byn, the Labour leader, in­sisted Sun­day that Ber­cow had been “re­li­giously fair.”

Writ­ing in Mon­day’s Daily Tele­graph, Nikki da Costa, May’s for­mer head of leg­isla­tive af­fairs, says the pu­ta­tive “coup” was “dressed up as hand­ing con­trol to back­benchers, but in re­al­ity it’s hand­ing con­trol to Labour and the op­po­si­tion par­ties plus a small group of rebel Con­ser­va­tives.”

Do­minic Grieve


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