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Analysis

Rudd wants to kill “no deal”. Best route is a People’s Vote.

by Hugo Dixon | 22.01.2019

Theresa May refused to take “no deal” off the table yesterday. But MPs from across the political spectrum, including Cabinet ministers, are rallying against us crashing out of the EU. A slew of amendments are being prepared to the prime minister’s empty Plan B, the common element of which is to try to prevent such a calamity.

Many ideas will be debated in the coming weeks. But the only sure way of stopping “no deal” will to ask the people whether they still wish to quit the EU.

Amber Rudd has told Downing Street that up to 40 ministers will resign if they are not given a chance to vote against “no deal”, according to The Times and The i. The Work and Pensions secretary wants MPs to be given a free vote on the issue.

Labour has put down an amendment which calls for a debate on ways to stop “no deal” – including holding a “public vote” and its own plan for a customs union. Although the opposition’s amendment is unlikely to pass, precisely because it is being proposed by the  Labour front bench, it is significant that Jeremy Corbyn has taken the first parliamentary step to back a People’s Vote.

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Backbenchers, whose amendments might have a better chance of passing, include:

  • Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP, and Labour’s Jack Dromey, who are opposing “no deal”.
  • Hilary Benn, the Labour chair of the Commons Brexit committee, who wants votes on four options: the prime minister’s deal, “no deal”, a renegotiated deal and a People’s Vote.
  • Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Home Affairs committee, who wants legislation forcing the government to ask the EU to let us delay to Brexit if MPs don’t agree a deal by February 26.
  • Rachel Reeves, the Labour chair of the business committee, has a similar demand but without legislation.

Dominic Grieve, the Tory former attorney general, is also considering a variety of amendments. He met Cooper and other MPs in Benn’s office yesterday to coordinate tactics.

While it’s unclear exactly what amendments stand the best chance of success, the priority is for MPs to show there is a clear majority against “no deal” and then make an honest assessment of alternatives to the government’s deal. If these are scrutinised properly, it will become clear that no form of Brexit is better than our current deal in the EU and no form of Brexit can fulfil the promises made in 2016.

The only one way forward will then be to hand the final decision back to the British public through a People’s Vote.