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Theresa May's Brexit deal will include MPs' vote on second referendum

Theresa May has said her "new Brexit deal" will include a vote on whether to hold a second referendum, as she urged MPs to back her Withdrawal Agreement.

The prime minister said the vote would be contained in the bill, which goes before Parliament for a fourth time in early June.

She warned a failure to reach an agreement on Brexit would lead to a "nightmare future of permanently polarised politics".

Mrs May said in a speech on Tuesday: "I've listened carefully to those who have been arguing for a second referendum, I've made my own view on this clear many times.

"But I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House, on this important issue.

"The Government will therefore include within the Withdrawal Agreement at introduction, a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum."

Theresa May said the deal will include a vote on whether to hold a second referendum. Credit: PA

Mrs May believes there is "one last chance" for MPs deliver the result of the 2016 referendum by voting through her new deal.

She is attempting to win over critics across the Commons who have rejected her three previous attempts and prime minister outlined how this Brexit deal is different in 10 points.

The commitments would be guaranteed in law and include:

  • A legal commitment to conclude alternative arrangements to replace the Northern Ireland backstop by December 2020, so it never needs to be used
  • A commitment that, should the backstop come into force, the Government will ensure that Great Britain's border rules stay aligned with Northern Ireland's
  • Negotiating objectives and final treaties for the UK's future relationship with the EU will have to be approved by MPs
  • A new Workers' Rights Bill offering protections at least as favourable as those in the EU
  • No change in the level of environmental protection when the UK leaves the EU
  • As close to frictionless trade with the EU as is possible once the UK has left the single market but an end to free movement of people
  • A commitment to align the UK with EU rules for goods and products to protect thousands of jobs dependent on just-in-time supply chains
  • A commitment to allow MPs to decide on future customs arrangements with the EU
  • A vote for MPs on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum
  • A legal duty to secure changes to the current political declaration agreed with Brussels to reflect the new deal

A defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) is likely to hasten Mrs May's departure from Number 10.

Mrs May has agreed to set her own timetable for her departure from Downing Street, following a meeting with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee last week.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party cannot support the new bill, as it's "basically a rehash of what has been discussed before."

"It doesn't make any fundamental moves on market alignment or the customs union or indeed the protection of rights," he said.

"There is also the question of the deliverability of it, she's going to leave office, many of her own MPs have already said they cannot support the bill. I cannot see how it's going to get through Parliament anyway."

Eurosceptic Tories reacted angrily to Mrs May's proposed deal, with Jacob Rees-Mogg saying the deal was "worse than before."

Some MPs who voted in favour of the Prime Minister's deal the last time it was put before the Commons indicated that they would not do so on this occasion.

Tory MP Simon Clarke tweeted: "I supported the PM at MV3 (meaningful vote three), to try to get us out on 29 March. But this speech from the PM means there is no way I will support the Withdrawal Agreement Bill."

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Meanwhile, Labour MP Wes Streeting, who backs a second referendum, suggested he too would be unable to back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

"Lots of us have been very clear that the PM's deal can pass on the condition that the people get to decide through a referendum. That's not what the PM is promising I'm afraid. Will look at the detail first, but on that basis it's unlikely I'll vote for the Bill at Second Reading."

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In a direct plea to MPs, Mrs May concluded: "I say with conviction to every MP of every party - I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too.

"We have been given a clear instruction by the people we are supposed to represent.

"So help me find a way to honour that instruction, move our country and our politics forward, and build the better future that all of us want to see."

Mrs May met with members of her Cabinet before the Brexit announcement. Credit: PA

Mrs May met with her Cabinet for two hours before her announcement in which she urged MPs the bill is "the vehicle which gets the UK out of the EU."

Mrs May’s spokesman acknowledged there were “strong opinions” around the Cabinet table but also a “determination” to get a deal through Parliament.

The meeting was “characterised by a shared determination to find a way of passing the WAB so that the UK can leave the EU with a deal”, the spokesman said.

But “Brexit is a topic which does carry strong opinions” and “they are very often reflected around the Cabinet table”.