REMAINER MPs were defeated in their attempts to reverse Brexit yesterday after the majority voted to disagree with Lords Amendment 19 on a ‘meaningful vote’ on the final Brexit deal.
324 voted to disagree with the Lords amendment, and 298 MPs voted to adopt it. The Lords Amendment 19 would have allowed the House of Commons to decide the next course of action if Parliament rejected the final deal.
They hoped that, if passed, ‘Remainer’ MPs could then vote down the deal and, in effect, stop Brexit by defying the majority will of the people as decided by the referendum. In this they were defeated.
Labour’s John Mann, speaking in the debate on the Lords Amendment 19 to the EU Withdrawal Bill said: ‘How do we explain to the 15 million people who voted to leave the European Union that the unelected Lords will overturn the Commons and the referendum?’
He added: ‘Labour voters in the Midlands and the north do not want to see the Brexit negotiations carried out by 650 Members of Parliament. How will Labour explain to them if the Commons votes to overturn the referendum result? What will we say to them when we return to our constituencies?’
Ex-Tory Justice Minister Phillip Lee, who had resigned earlier in the day, said: ‘Resigning from Ministerial Office was an incredibly difficult decision in order to support my Right Honourable Friend in his attempts to amend the government’s amendment to the Lords, and I am devastated to take this decision.
‘I believe in the Burkeian principle: that our institutions guarantee our human rights. Most important of all, is the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens. This is usually understood in military terms, but I believe it applies more generally. It means that sometimes when the majority of our people want something that is against the good of society, government and Parliament have the responsibility to protect us.’
After this advocacy of a Parliamentary dictatorship over the people, he added: ‘This was the case with the death penalty when, for decades, politicians went against the majority view and refused to reinstate it. Now I believe it needs to be the case with the Brexit process.’
Tory rebel Anna Soubry intervened to congratulate Lee: ‘Can I congratulate the Right Honourable gentleman in his courageous decision. Would he agree with me that there is no majority in this House or in the country for a destructive no deal Brexit.’
Opening the debate David Davis, Tory Brexit Secretary, said: ‘These amendments seek to undermine the essential purpose of the Bill, which is to provide a smooth and orderly exit from the EU, it will undermine the referendum result and we must reject them.’
Labour MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna claimed: ‘What the Lords amendments seek to do is reassert Parliamentary sovereignty so that this House gets to vote on every scenario that can be conceived of in leaving the European Union.
‘In terms of the Secretary of State, isn’t it the case that his amendment to that Lords Amendment 19 gives his government a passport to take this country out of the European Union with no deal and with this House having had no say on it whatsoever.’
Davis replied: ‘He does have the honesty to say that he would like us to stay in the European Union irrespective of the Referendum result. What he describes as giving the government the right to take us out of the European Union, in frankly any circumstances, was Article 50, which was passed through this House and the Other House by a very large majority.’
Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, said: ‘What the Lords want us to do as Aneurin Bevan said “We will be sending our negotiators back naked into the negotiating room”. The European Union will note that the government is beaten and that it can impose any terms whatsoever on them.’
Edward Leigh, Tory MP for Gainsborough, said: ‘If the Lords amendment stands, it will be a catastrophe for the government. The government’s opponents want to create a situation where the whole process is frustrated.
‘This is really a wrecking amendment, it is wrecking the will of the people, wrecking democracy. The people want us to leave the EU. Parliament, don’t stand against the will of the people, implement their will.’
The Lord’s Amendment 110, which would have obliged a committee to scrutinise all ministerial directives used to amend retained EU law, was rejected with 324 MPs voting against and 302 voting to adopt it.
MPs also voted not to adopt Lords Amendments 37, 39 and 125 to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Those three amendments would have given Parliament the power to change the exit date for the UK to leave the European Union.