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European Union Withdrawal Agreement (Public Vote)

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2018

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide that any Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union shall not have effect without a vote by the electorate of the United Kingdom and Gibraltar to that effect; to make arrangements for the holding of such a public vote; and for connected purposes.

There should be a democratic public vote on whether to accept the deal that the Government achieve to leave the European Union. A people’s vote would allow the public, rather than just us in the House of Commons, to make the final decision about whether to accept the Brexit deal. The 2016 referendum determined that Britain should negotiate the country’s departure from the European Union, and I have always respected that decision—I voted for article 50 to be triggered—but the terms on which we leave and on Britain’s future relationship with the European Union were never clearly defined or put to the public in 2016.

New facts about Brexit have emerged that could never have been known at the time of the referendum. We now know that the promises made about Brexit—such as £350 million a week extra for the NHS and a deal with the exact same benefits—will not be kept. Who knew that Brexit negotiators would be willing to hand over £40 billion to leave the European Union, and for a much worse relationship? With negotiations obviously not going well and the Cabinet not able to agree among itself, even on future customs arrangements and what to do about the Northern Ireland border, it is more and more likely that the Government will present us with a poor deal. In those circumstances, why should our country—our fellow citizens—have to accept it without having had any chance to influence the hard Brexit that the Government look like they are going to deliver?

We have gone from being the fastest-growing economy in the G7 to the slowest. Indeed, according to the Bank of England, Brexit has cost us more than £200 million a week in lost growth. The pound has plummeted, investment is down, inflation is higher and wages have stagnated—and we have not even left yet. Even the Government agree that Brexit will damage the economy: their own leaked impact analysis shows that we will be worse off under every possible Brexit deal. On immigration, fishing and new trade deals, we were told a series of statements that, two years on, are looking distinctly threadbare.

On immigration, how are the Government going to secure access to the single market without accepting freedom of movement? Why would the European Union sign off a trade deal that does not include the right for EU nationals to come back and forth? There has been not a single sign that EU Ministers are willing to shift on this issue or—tellingly—that the Government really, deep down, want them to. There are various measures that the Government could bring in now, but strikingly they have chosen not to ensure that free movement is not a free for all.

It is now clear that it is Ministers, and not the European Union, holding back our fishermen from expanding their operations. As a former trade Minister, I know that many of the much-heralded new trade deals that Ministers want to negotiate will involve significant immigration to the UK—a truth that Ministers have been reluctant to explain. It is already clear that when big trading nations like the US sit down to negotiate with us on our own, they will expect us to lower the environmental, health and safety standards that we have in the UK. Chlorinated chicken would be just the start; of course, it is well known that private American healthcare chains have ambitions to be allowed to expand into our NHS.

The Prime Minister has said emphatically that the country will have full details about the deal that has been negotiated before we leave the European Union, and I take her at her word. We already know the details of the divorce deal and the transition. We know some key parts of the deal that the Government are negotiating—notably that they want to leave the customs union and the single market. The Government decided that only after the referendum was held; it was not on the ballot paper. If, despite what the Prime Minister has promised, the Government try to fob the country off with only vague plans about leaving—if much of our future relationship remains unclear—it will be even more important to have a people’s vote, because of the danger that we will be charging off into the unknown.

This is the greatest country in the world, and I want it to be greater still. The Brexit deal is bigger than any piece of legislation, more significant than any budget, and will have more impact than any current Government Minister on the future of our country. On something as big as the Brexit deal, why should it be only us, here in this House, who get to decide what is good enough? Why cannot my neighbours—the people in my community who shop in the supermarkets that I use, and who walk the same streets as I do—have a vote on the deal, too? Why am I set to be the only person living in Harrow who will get a say on whether the Brexit deal is any good? Why will people in Belfast, Shropshire, Lincoln, Stirling or Aberystwyth not get a vote on the deal that will have such a big impact on their lives and those of their children?

Whatever we think of Brexit—whether we voted remain or leave; whether we think we will get a good deal or a bad deal—we can all surely agree that it is a huge deal. That means that it is much too important to be left to the 650 of us here is Westminster to decide on our own. The 65 million people of this great country deserve to have their voices heard on the Brexit deal as well. That is why I support a people’s vote on the terms of Brexit, and that is what I will be campaigning on over the coming months. That is also why I urge the House to support the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.


That Gareth Thomas, Stephen Timms, Dr Rupa Huq, Andy Slaughter, Stephen Doughty, Anna Turley, Susan Elan Jones, Tom Brake, Jonathan Edwards, Caroline Lucas, Daniel Zeichner and Paul Flynn present the Bill.

Gareth Thomas accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 July, and to be printed (Bill 208).

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Will you please inform us about the timing of today’s proceedings? I am trying to get my head around whether there is a 90-minute —[Interruption.] I think I have confirmed my own assumptions on the timing, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am most grateful for the indulgence of the House.

Data Protection Bill [Lords] (Programme) (No. 2)


That the Order of 5 March 2018 (Data Protection Bill [Lords] (Programme)) be varied as follows:

(1) Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Order shall be omitted.

(2) Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading shall be taken in one day in accordance with the following provisions of this Order.

(3) Proceedings on Consideration—

(a) shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table, and

(b) shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.



Time for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses, new Schedules and amendments relating to the processing of personal data for the purposes of journalism

4.00 pm, or two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order, whichever is the later.

Remaining proceedings on Consideration

6.00 pm.

(4) Proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 6.00 pm.

(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 pm.—(Nigel Adams.)