Brexit: Theresa May says UK may not leave EU unless MPs back her deal

'I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy,' says prime minister

Peter Stubley
Sunday 13 January 2019 23:32
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What is the Brexit meaningful vote?

Theresa May will travel to the Leave stronghold of Stoke-on-Trent on the eve of the crucial vote to warn MPs that blocking her deal risks stopping Brexit altogether.

The prime minister is expected to say that public faith in the democratic process and in politicians would suffer “catastrophic harm” if the referendum result is overruled.

Addressing workers at a factory in Stoke, which voted 69.4 per cent in favour of Brexit, Ms May will argue on Monday that parliament has a duty to honour the decision of the British people.

She is expected to say: “In June 2016, the British people were asked by MPs to take a decision: should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or should it leave?

“In that campaign, both sides disagreed on many things, but on one thing they were united: what the British people decided, the politicians would implement.

“In the run-up to the vote, the government sent a leaflet to every household making the case for remain. It stated very clearly: ‘This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.’

“Those were the terms on which people cast their votes. If a majority had backed remain, the UK would have continued as an EU member state.

“No doubt the disagreements would have continued too, but the vast majority of people would have had no truck with an argument that we should leave the EU in spite of a vote to remain or that we should return to the question in another referendum.

“On the rare occasions when Parliament puts a question to the British people directly we have always understood that their response carries a profound significance.

“When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3 per cent, on a turnout of just over 50 per cent, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by both sides and the popular legitimacy of that institution has never seriously been questioned.

“Parliament understood this fact when it voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50. And both major parties did so too when they stood on election manifestos in 2017 that pledged to honour the result of the referendum.”

The prime minister will also warn MPs against force the public to vote again on Brexit.

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She will say: “As we have seen over the last few weeks, there are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so.

“I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.

“Imagine if an anti-devolution House of Commons had said to the people of Scotland or Wales that despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, parliament knew better and would over-rule them. Or else force them to vote again.

“What if we found ourselves in a situation where parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a remain vote?

“People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.

“We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.”

The prime minister is facing a historic defeat on her Brexit deal on Tuesday, with some estimates suggesting she could lose by around 200 votes.

Jeremy Corbyn has indicated he would call a confidence vote in the government “soon” afterwards as part of Labour’s efforts to force a snap general election.

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