U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has said Members of Parliament will have the chance to vote on whether there should be a second referendum on Brexit—but only if they back the latest version of her “compromised” Withdrawal Agreement Bill in June.
In a final role of the dice to try to get her Brexit deal through the Commons on its fourth attempt, May said in a speech in London on Tuesday that “those MPs who want a second referendum to confirm the deal: You need a deal and therefore a Withdrawal Agreement Bill to make it happen.”
“If MPs vote against the second reading of this Bill, they are voting to stop Brexit. If they do so, the consequences could hardly be greater.”
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May
The Prime Minister also warned that “extending [Brexit] for months more—perhaps indefinitely—risks opening the door to a nightmare future of permanently polarised politics.”
She added that “with the right Brexit deal, we can end this corrosive debate.”
May’s latest 10-point plan
1. The U.K. government will seek to conclude “alternative arrangements” to replace the Northern Ireland backstop by December 2020, so that it never needs to be used.
2. There will be a commitment that, should the backstop come into force, the government will ensure Great Britain will stay aligned with Northern Ireland.
3. The negotiating objectives and final treaties for the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the EU will have to be approved by MPs.
4. A new Workers’ Rights Bill that guarantees workers’ rights will be no less favourable than in the EU.
5. There will be no change in the level of environmental protection following Brexit.
6. The United Kingdom will seek as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while outside the single market and ending free movement.
7. The United Kingdom will keep up to date with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at border in order to help protect thousands of jobs that depend on just-in-time supply chains.
8. The government will bring forward a customs compromise for MPs to decide on to break the current deadlock.
9. There will be a vote for MPs on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum.
10. There will be a legal duty to secure changes to the political declaration to reflect the new deal.
The latest deal has a 10-point list of issues that it will tackle. According to May, this new Brexit deal is a “bespoke solution” that “contains significant further changes to protect the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom and deliver Brexit.”
Some of the key areas that will benefit from increased protection are workers’ rights and the environment, with the government pledging to set up a new Office for Environmental Protection (presumably to replace the Environment Agency, the current regulator, though no reason is given as to why it should be scrapped).
The latest bill will also place a legal duty on the government to “seek as close to frictionless trade with the EU in goods as possible” by maintaining common rules with the European Union for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at the border.
The government will only agree to this, however, so long as the United Kingdom is able to leave the single market and end freedom of movement—key points that the European Union has resisted throughout the negotiations.
Other problems persist: Neither the government nor the opposition Labour Party have agreed on a deal over future customs arrangements. Labour wants a comprehensive customs union with a say in EU trade policy; the government, on the other hand, wants the benefits of a customs union but with the ability for the United Kingdom to determine its own trade and development policy.
The Northern Ireland backstop proposal, designed to retain frictionless trade between the only EU-U.K. land border without the need for a hard border, is another sticking point.
In her speech, May also took a swipe at the MPs that have frustrated her efforts so far. “If just 30 MPs had voted differently, we would have passed the Withdrawal Agreement. And we would be leaving the EU.” She added that “if MPs vote against the second reading of this Bill, they are voting to stop Brexit. If they do so, the consequences could hardly be greater.”