Martin Whitfield MP has joined 16 parliamentary colleagues in writing to the Guardian newspaper to demand parliament is able to vote on a second referendum or ‘People’s Vote’, saying ‘people must be given their rightful seat at the table’.
The letter, which has been signed by members of all the three main UK political parties and by MPs from seats which voted Remain and Leave, reads as follows:
“On 11 December, one of the biggest votes since the second world war will take place in the House of Commons. There will be no hiding place for any of us – each MP will have to make a decision.
The impact of the Brexit vote has already seen the UK go from being the fastest growing G7 economy to one of the slowest.
We represent constituencies that voted both Leave and Remain. Our constituents did not vote to put jobs at risk or to be worse off and they certainly did not expect to pay a £40bn divorce bill without knowing what our future trading relationship with the EU would be.
Far from a Brexit dividend, there will be a heavy penalty for the NHS, public health, social care, science and research. This is why the people – not only their MPs – must have a say on whether we go through with this.
The main party leaders will not commit to putting the decision back to those we represent at this stage. We acknowledge there is not yet a majority in the House of Commons for a necessary cross-party amendment providing for a “people’s vote” at the time of the “meaningful vote” on the government’s motion to approve the withdrawal agreement, which takes place in 10 days’ time. And without the support of the leader of the opposition or the prime minister for such a cross-party move it cannot succeed.
But this need not be the case. Parliamentary support grows every day and we will keep making the argument. Our principle is simple: the terms of Brexit – whatever they are – should be put to the British people to decide whether to proceed on those terms or to keep the current deal we have as a member of the EU.
Beyond the large group of MPs who, like us, have publicly backed the campaign, many MPs on all sides have indicated privately they will support a people’s vote if the prime minister’s “deal” falls.
It is clear the prime minister’s plan will not command a majority and so that moment is already upon us – there is no need to wait and see what is now inevitable.
Others wish to resolve this matter through an early general election but it is clear there is not the requisite two-thirds majority in the House for that proposition either.
A commitment to supporting a people’s vote amendment in the coming weeks could build further support across parliament. We call on all party leaders and parliament to trust the people with the final say so we can face the future united.
The time of the meaningful vote is the only guaranteed opportunity – written in statute – for the Commons to back a people’s vote. There may be other opportunities, but whether there are debates and votes in the house is very much in the control of the government.
The indications are that the prime minister, within a matter of days of her plan failing to carry the house, will seek to return to the house in a second attempt to get a revised withdrawal agreement through.
It is vital, given the speed with which events will unfold, that we do not prevaricate in ensuring that the people are given their rightful seat at the table. If that opportunity is missed, our country and our younger generations in particular – who stand to lose the most – will never forgive us.
We must not fail to make the case for the people to give their informed consent to the path the UK follows when the moment most demands it.”
Anna Soubry (Conservative), Chuka Umunna (Labour), Dr Sarah Wollaston (Conservative), Chris Leslie (Labour), Heidi Allen (Conservative), Luciana Berger (Labour), Dr Phillip Lee (Conservative), Angela Smith (Labour), Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrat), Ian Murray (Labour), Dr Paul Williams (Labour), Barry Sheerman, (Labour) Ann Coffey (Labour), Mike Gapes (Labour), Martin Whitfield (Labour), Gavin Shuker (Labour) and Guto Bebb (Conservative)