Brexit bill: House of Lords vote down calls for second referendum

In an 'extremely rare move' the Liberal Democrats will now vote against the Brexit Bill at its third reading in the upper chamber

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Peers in the House of Lords have voted down calls for a second referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal by an overwhelming majority.

Rejecting the Liberal Democrat’s amendment to the Government’s Brexit Bill, peers voted against a second referendum by 336 votes to 131 – a majority of 205.

In what the party describes as an “extremely rare move” in the Lords, the Lib Dems will now vote against the Brexit Bill at the third reading later on Tuesday.

Dick Newby, the party’s leader in the upper chamber, said “it was only right that they [the people] are given a say on the final deal”.

He continued: “Today the Government have confirmed that the Brexit deal will be finalised behind closed doors in Westminster. This is not accountable, this is not democracy, and that is why the Liberal Democrats cannot support this Bill.

“Theresa May is driving Britain towards a hard Brexit which wasn’t on the ballot paper and which no one voted for.”

Labour's leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon, said her party could not support the amendment and would abstain in the vote. She said there had been “no significant public demand for a second referendum” and no significant shift in public opinion about leaving the EU.

Lord Bridges, the Brexit minister, also dismissed the Lib Dem amendment as “misguided in practice and in principle”, adding it was abundantly clear that the referendum last year was a “once in a generation decision”.

He added: "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."

It comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that holding a second referendum on the final deal would add to the nation’s division and “deepen the bitterness” exposed by the EU referendum last year.

"I believe it would be both dangerous and unwise and wrong to reduce the substance of the terms on which we exit the European Union to the result of a binary yes-no choice taken last summer,” he added.