Theresa May has said MPs have “one last chance” to deliver Brexit, urging them to back what she said was a “new deal”.
MPs will get a vote on whether to hold another referendum if they back the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, she said.
The bill also contains new guarantees on workers’ rights, environmental protections and the Northern Irish border as well a customs “compromise”.
Labour said it was a “rehash” of existing plans and Tory Brexiteers took to social media to vent their anger.
Jacob Rees-Mogg said what was on offer was “worse than before”, while Zac Goldsmith said the bill was a “convoluted mess” and the prime minister – who has offered to quit once a Brexit agreement is approved by Parliament – should leave now.
MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU three times.
In what is seen as a last roll of the dice, Mrs May is now bringing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – legislation required to bring the agreement into UK law – to Parliament in early June.
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In a speech in London, the prime minister said the deadlock over Brexit was having a “corrosive” impact on political debate in the country and stopping progress in other areas.
“The majority of MPs say they want to deliver the result of the referendum… and I believe there is now one last chance to do that,” she said.
“We are making a new offer to find common ground in Parliament. That is the only way to deliver Brexit.”
The key points of the PM’s revised plan are:
- A guarantee of a Commons vote on another referendum before the Brexit agreement is ratified, with the government honouring the outcome
- A vote on different customs options, including a government proposal for a temporary customs union for goods – what Mrs May called a “customs compromise”
- A legal obligation for the UK to come up with an alternative to the Northern Ireland backstop by the end of 2020
- If the backstop does come into force, the bill would guarantee that Northern Ireland remains aligned with the rest of the UK and will not be not part of a separate customs territory
- Legislation to ensure workers rights are “every bit as good if not better” after Brexit and guarantees of no dilution in environmental standards
- A legal duty to seek changes to the political declaration on future relations with the EU
While she personally opposed another referendum on the terms of Brexit, the PM said she recognised the “genuine and sincere” feelings on the issue in Parliament.
She urged MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at its first parliamentary hurdle in and then “make the case” for another public vote when the bill was examined in detail.
Under the plan, Parliament will get to decide on the shape of future customs arrangements with the EU after cross-party talks failed to find a solution.
Appealing to MPs to back her plan, she said it would honour the 2016 referendum result, adding: “I have compromised, now I ask you to compromise too.”
If MPs reject the bill, she warned them a negotiated exit would be “dead in the water” and Brexit could be stopped.
‘Dead in the water’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would not support the bill and could not see how it would get through Parliament.
“It’s basically a rehash of what was discussed before and it doesn’t make any fundamental moves on market alignment or the customs union or indeed protection of rights,” he said.
“There’s also, of course, the question of the deliverability of it. The prime minister has already indicated she’s going to leave office.”
Tory Brexiteers responded angrily to the PM’s new plan. Former minister Andrew Percy, who backed her Brexit agreement on three previous occasions, said he would not do so now.
Iain Duncan Smith said it left the EU “firmly in control of our destiny” while Anne-Marie Trevelyan accused Mrs May of “trying to ram her botched deal through on Labour votes by keeping us in the customs union and allowing Brussels to dictate our future trade policy”.
The Democratic Unionists, who keep Mrs May’s government in power, said the plans were still “fundamentally flawed”.
And Labour’s Peter Kyle, one of the chief supporters of another referendum in his party, said Mrs May’s promises could easily be reversed by her successor.
He said what was being offered was a “strange complex process” rather than a “clean, simple confirmatory ballot on her deal”.
The SNP said they could not support any plan which took the UK out of the single market while the Lib Dems said Mrs May did not have the political authority to guarantee any of her proposals would ever happen.