Brexit: MPs drop plan to put fresh referendum to Commons vote

Luciana Berger and Sarah Wollaston

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Labour MP Luciana Berger urged Jeremy Corbyn to get behind a referendum

Members of the the cross-party People’s Vote campaign have admitted they don’t yet have enough support from MPs to get another EU referendum.

The MPs have dropped plans to table an amendment to next week’s Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Instead, they will throw their weight behind a series of other delaying moves, to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

They conceded they had little chance of getting a referendum without Jeremy Corbyn telling Labour MPs to back it.

Sources at the People’s Vote campaign said its official position was to get behind amendments calling for a delay to Brexit and for MPs to take control of the process.

Conservative MP Guto Bebb, speaking on behalf of the campaign, said: “When every route to Brexit has been examined and exhausted it will become clear the only way forward is to hand the final decision back to the British public through a People’s Vote.”

Labour MP Luciana Berger, a leading member of the People’s Vote campaign, had been planning to table an amendment calling for a referendum, along with Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston and Labour’s Mike Gapes, among others.

But Ms Wollaston told reporters: “With great regret we will not be laying that amendment because without the leader of the opposition’s backing, it would not pass.”

She said that with no majority among MPs for any approach to Brexit, Parliament would “inevitably be faced with the choice between ‘No Deal’ or returning the decision to the people”.

‘Not good enough’

Ms Berger called on Mr Corbyn to “do the right thing and back a people’s vote”, which she said was supported by millions of young Labour supporters and members.

“Labour should be clearly setting out a different course, not facilitating a job-destroying Brexit,” she said.

“Yet at a time when Labour could be championing a People’s Vote, the leadership avoids answering that call… This is not good enough.”

She warned her party leader that Labour would “haemorrhage” votes at the next general election if he did not support a referendum.

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Mr Corbyn has said he wants to try to force a general election before considering other options such as a referendum.

But the Labour leadership has taken a step towards backing a referendum in its own amendment to the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The amendment calls on the government to back Labour’s plan for a permanent customs union with Brussels and a version of the EU’s single market.

And it says the government should hold a public vote on either a deal or a proposition that has MPs’ support.

The Liberal Democrats have also tabled an amendment, which “instructs the government to take all necessary steps to rule out a no-deal scenario and prepare for a people’s vote in which the public will have the option to remain in the European Union on the ballot paper”.

It will be up to Commons Speaker John Bercow to decide which amendments will be put to the vote on Tuesday.

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