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UK: MPs produce legislation for holding a Brexit referendum in the next few months

By Adam Payne From Business Insider

  • Cross-party group of MPs published draft legislation for holding a Brexit referendum before the end of May.
  • MPs from the Conservatives, Labour and other parties unveiled two draft bills designed for holding a referendum on Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the next few months.
  • Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said it shows “how quickly a People’s Vote can be delivered.”
  • The prime minister has repeatedly ruled out another referendum and described it as an affront to democracy.
  • May is set to claim on Monday that MPs blocking Brexit is more likely than no deal.
  • Her deal is set to be voted down by MPs on Tuesday.
People’s Vote supporters Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
 REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON — A cross-party group of anti-Brexit MPs has published draft legislation for creating a route to a referendum on Theresa May’s deal as MPs prepare to vote on the prime minister’s agreement with Brussels.

MPs including senior Conservative backbencher Dominic Grieve, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, and Labour’s Chuka Umunna are backing two pieces of proposed legislation designed to force a so-called People’s Vote.

The two draft bills are set to be put forward in Parliament this week as MPs consider alternatives to May’s deal.

The first is a “Paving Bill” which would let the Electoral Commission prepare a new referendum, by doing consultation around the question and deciding the official campaigns. The second would provide for the referendum itself.

Supporters say it would allow for a referendum on May’s deal versus staying in the European Union to take place before the European Parliament elections in May, with help from a short extension of the Article 50 exit process.

People’s Vote campaigners estimate that 175 out of the 650 MPs in the Commons support another referendum, Business Insider revealed. That number could rise as the UK approaches exit day without a deal or viable alternative.

Prime Minister May will on Monday claim that MPs blocking Brexit is a more likely outcome than a no-deal scenario.

Speaking in the Leave-voting city of Stoke, she’ll say MPs must “consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy” and that “we all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.”

Tory MP Grieve, who has been behind numerous amendments designed to give MPs greater control over Brexit, said: “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 Scottish Nationalist Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford also supports the proposed bills.

He said: “There is little support in Parliament for the Prime Minister’s deal or for no deal. As Members of Parliament, it is our responsibility to present an alternative route to protect our economy and citizens rights.”

The MPs assembled a team of academics, constitutional experts and peers in the House of Lords to write the draft pieces of legislation, which Lib Dem leader Cable claimed “shows how quickly a People’s Vote can be delivered.”

One of those experts, former House of Commons Clerk Lord Lisvane, said:”We have worked together on a cross-party – and no-party – basis to provide a pragmatic solution to the present impasse.

“Now that people know what the options are, it seems right to let them choose. This Bill provides for that.”

Vince Cable
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable.

Prime Minister May has repeatedly ruled out another referendum and described it as an affront to democracy.

She wrote in the Sunday Express that failure to deliver the 2016 Brexit vote would be a “catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy” and urged MPs to “forget the games and do what is right for our country.”

The prime minister is almost certain to lose the Tuesday on her deal with vote with MPs on all sides opposed to it.

The margin of defeat could be over 100 votes, with tens of Conservative MPs and the Democratic Unionist Party that props up May’s government set to join all opposition parties in voting against the Brexit deal.

The prime minister is set to return to the Commons within days of a defeat to lay out what she’ll do next, with MPs calling for a range of options including a softer Brexit, an extension to Article 50, and a new referendum.

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