The House of Lords has voted against a second Brexit referendum,
but peers are likely to support an amendment forcing Theresa May to give parliament a more meaningful vote on the UK’s final deal at the end of two years of negotiations.
Peers voted by by 336 votes to 131 – a majority of 205 – against letting Britain vote again on whether to leave the EU at the end of divorce talks in 2019, with the archbishop of canterbury among those speaking against having another nationwide poll.
Justin Welby said the government should not oversimplify the result of the referendum but holding another one would not be sensible. “It will add to our divisions, it will deepen the bitterness. It is not democratic. It is unwise,” he said.
A large number of Lib Dem peers and more than a dozen Labour members disagreed, voting for a second referendum to make sure the UK really does want to leave the EU in 2019.
Peter Hain, the Labour peer and former cabinet minister, argued a second referendum would be about ensuring a fair process, “not disputing the outcome of 23 June. This is not about re-running that referendum. This is about making sure that the democratic process remains democratic. That voters have a final say on the eventual negotiated outcome.”
Dick Newby, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords, said his amendment was “based on the principle that having asked the people whether they wished to initiate the Brexit process, only the people should take the final decision”.
But the vast majority of peers voted against the idea. George Bridges, a Brexit minister, dismissed the idea of a second referendum as “misguided in practice and in principle”.
“There was nothing on the ballot and no suggestion from parliament that there would have to be another referendum if the UK were to vote to leave”, he said.
He also warned that to hold another referendum would “merely encourage divisions to fester” rather than bring the country together.
“Where does this end?” he asked. “Will we continue to hold the same referendum until we get the result those supporting this amendment would prefer?”
The government is in more danger of losing a second vote in the House of Lords later on Tuesday on the issue of forcing May to hold a more meaningful parliamentary vote on Brexit. Parliament is currently only being offered a “take it or leave it” vote: accept May’s Brexit deal or leave the EU with no deal, and trade on World Trade Organisation terms instead.
However, peers are expected to vote on a cross-party basis for parliament to have the power to reject May’s deal and send her back to the negotiating table if it does not like what she has achieved.
If the amendment is passed, it would be the government’s second defeat on the Brexit bill in the House of Lords, which has already voted to guarantee the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.
The bill is expected to clear the House of Lords on Tuesday night, with the Lib Dems likely to be the main bloc voting against it. It will then proceed to the House of Commons on Monday, where MPs are expected to overturn both amendments and send the bill straight back to the House of Lords again that night, unless MPs change their mind about the issues.
A number of Conservative MPs are trying to push the government to be clearer about how No 10 intends to hold a parliamentary vote in 2019. (flipboard.com)