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Theresa May offers another Brexit referendum to see bill through

May has rejected on umpteen occasions the demand for another referendum, on the ground that it would betray the trust in democracy of the people, who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum

world Updated: May 21, 2019 22:46 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Theresa May,referendum,Brexit
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech on Brexit in London on May 21, 2019. (REUTERS)

In a significant climbdown, Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday conceded the demand of another referendum on the UK leaving the European Union and asked MPs to vote on holding it when the Brexit bill is before parliament in the week beginning June 3.

May has rejected on umpteen occasions the demand for another referendum, on the ground that it would betray the trust in democracy of the people, who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

Giving details of the new ‘bold’ offer, May said: “I have also listened carefully to those who have been arguing for a Second Referendum…I do not believe this is a route that we should take, because I think we should be implementing the result of the first referendum, not asking the British people to vote in a second one”.

“But I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue. The Government will therefore include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at introduction a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum. This must take place before the Withdrawal Agreement can be ratified”.

If the House of Commons were to vote for the second referendum, it would require the government to enable it, she said, adding: “So to 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”.

The prospect of another referendum angered several of May’s MPs who said they voted for her deal previously but would now vote against it. Labour said there is nothing new, so would continue to oppose it.

May’s revised offer includes asking parliament to vote on the issue of remaining in the EU customs union, a major demand of the opposition Labour, but a condition abhorred by Brexiteers who believe it would mean the UK remaining in hock to rules issues by Brussels.

Calling the withdrawal bill “one last chance” to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum, May said she had compromised and expected MPs to do likewise and endorse it to break the impasse and move on. The agreement has been voted down thrice.

She said: “I say with conviction to every MP of every party – I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too. We have been given a clear instruction by the people we are supposed to represent”.

“So help me find a way to honour that instruction, move our country and our politics forward, and build the better future that all of us want to see”.

First Published: May 21, 2019 21:44 IST