A cross-party group of MPs has today (January 14th) published legislation to bring about a ‘People’s Vote’ referendum on the Government’s Brexit deal in 2019.
The MPs have produced two draft Bills to break the deadlock in Parliament. First, a ‘Paving Bill’ which would enable the Electoral Commission to start the necessary consultation around a referendum question and lead campaign designation. Secondly, a full Bill which would provide for a referendum on the deal versus remaining within the European Union.
The legislation would enable the public to have the final say before the scheduled European elections. If the public chooses to remain within the European Union, voters would once again elect MEPs. If the public chooses to endorse the deal, the UK would no longer send representatives to the European Parliament, and the 27 remaining Member States could proceed with their elections unimpeded.
The full Bill also puts in place new restrictions on online advertising during the referendum campaign, ensuring that spending is transparent and properly accounted for. Beyond these changes, the Bill maintains similar arrangements as those for the 2016 referendum. However, it would be possible for Parliament to amend it to widen the existing franchise to 16-18 year olds, to all UK citizens overseas, and to European Union citizens in the UK.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, said:
"This Bill puts flesh on the bones of our campaign for a final say. Crucially, it shows how quickly a People's Vote can be delivered.
"With the Bill, Liberal Democrats and others can give the country the best way out of the present uncertainty.
“The Government should accept this as the starting point for legislation to break the current deadlock, enabling the people the final say and the option to remain in the EU.”
Former Attorney General and Conservative MP, Dominic Grieve, said:
“This Bill provides a legally credible way forward, and a politically credible way forward. With no majority in Parliament for the deal, or for ‘no deal’, the legislation provides the Government with an escape hatch."
Senior Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, said:
“This legislation provides a good starting point for Parliament to give the people the final say on whether to go ahead with Brexit given it looks nothing like what was originally promised.
"The Government should stop wasting time on a doomed deal, and let the Commons address this real plan for a People’s Vote as soon as possible – the principal way for the UK to avoid crashing out with no deal in a few weeks time.”
SNP Westminster Leader, Ian Blackford, said:
“There is little support in Parliament for the Prime Minister’s deal or for no deal. As Members of Parliament, it is our responsibility to present an alternative route to protect our economy and citizens rights.
“Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union and the SNP believe this Bill is an effort to build a consensus across the house for a second EU referendum.”
Former Clerk of the Commons, Lord Lisvane, added:
"We have worked together on a cross-party – and no-party – basis to provide a pragmatic solution to the present impasse. Now that people know what the options are, it seems right to let them choose. This Bill provides for that."