Lib Dem Amendment for people’s vote on Brexit deal defeated

Last night, the House of Commons voted on Amendment 120 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, whether people should be given a vote on the final Brexit deal.

It was defeated, with 23 for and 319 against – most of Labour didn’t vote!

You can watch Wera Hobhouse’s passionate speech for giving people a say on the Brexit deal here.

And Tom Brake’s speech here.

Commenting on the vote, LibDem Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

This is a shameful showing from the Labour party. They are meant to be opposing the government, but instead they are clocking off early for Christmas.

Once again the Labour leadership have failed to take a stand over Brexit. They claim they are standing up for the many, but as soon as the opportunity comes to give the people a say on the nation’s future, they pull a sickie.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party consistently bringing the fight to the government over Brexit. It is vital that at the end of this process, the people are given a say on the final deal and have the opportunity to exit from Brexit.


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  • Maybe now the Parliamentary Party can get on with developing policies to respond to the gross inequalities, rising homelessness, rough sleeping and poverty in our society…..

    e.g. Toys R Us can somehow write off a £ 546 million loan to an American billionaire yet also threaten 3,500 jobs and the wind up of a staff pension scheme (echoes of Philip Green.

    Let’s have twelve marauding campaigners fir social justice in the Commons…. and they can still point out that Brexit makes all these things worse.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Dec '17 - 10:46am

    David Raw 21st Dec ’17: sales of toys are highly seasonal, so they will try to delay until after Christmas.

  • “This is a shameful showing from the Labour party. They are meant to be opposing the government, but instead they are clocking off early for Christmas.”

    What a shameful conclusion to make.

    Of course it couldn’t be that Labour feels that legislating for a 2nd referendum now would just mean that we are offered the very worse deal by the EU in the hope that it would be rejected by the people .

    I call that Labour acting responsibly in the best interests of the country.

    As a leaver, I must admit that I am a bit worried that Labour “Abstained” on this vote rather than supported it. Because it suggests to me that Labour could support it at a later date in another amendment, which is something I am clearly against.

  • Colin Paine 21st Dec '17 - 1:00pm

    How come only 9 of ours voted for it? Hope the other 3 had good excuses!

  • I wonder why the wording of this amendment was so difficult to find. I had to look for it in Hansard! Column 1120 (Blink and you will miss it.)

    “Amendment 120, in clause 19, page 14, line 40, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

    “(2) The remaining provisions of this Act come into force once following a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should approve the United Kingdom and Gibraltar exit package proposed by HM Government at conclusion of the negotiations triggered by Article 50(2) for withdrawal from the European Union or remain a member of the European Union.

    (2A) The Secretary of State must, by regulations, appoint the day on which the referendum is to be held.

    (2B) The question that is to appear on the ballot papers is—“Do you support the Government’s proposed new agreement between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar and the European Union or Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”

    (2C) The Secretary of State may make regulations by statutory instrument on the conduct of the referendum.”

    This appears to me to be badly worded. Is it me or is clause (2) particularly badly worded. The amendment doesn’t state what people vote is it “support” and “remain”? Is it normal to give such huge powers to the Secretary of State? Why did the writers of this amendment not base their amendment on the European Union Referendum Act 2015 ( including the changes we think should have been in the act? They could just have referred to the relevant clauses!

    Was there any realistic likelihood this would get passed or was it just political posturing?

  • Just for information our MP’s who didn’t vote for our amendment were: – Alistair Carmichael, Norman Lamb and Stephen Lloyd. I think the last two have distanced themselves from our EU positions to get elected earlier this year.

  • Micheal BG,

    Tellers for Aye: Alistair Carmichael and Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrats)

    Tellers don’t vote but as there are two on each lobby they effectively cancel each other out. That only leave Stephen Lloyd.

    David Raw

    I’d recommend it’s bankruptcy has been a long time coming and not a secret to anyone who cared to look. Far from unique either.

  • Thank you Frankie. I should have clicked on the tellers tab. In my defence it is the first time I have looked at a vote on Hansard.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Dec '17 - 6:23pm

    The vote was as expected, depressing, but the amendment was needing to be put, so well done our MPs. Thank you for looking up Hansard, Michael. At least we in the country are now aware of the two questions proposed, which must be chosen between by the voters if the referendum takes place. I don’t quite follow your sentence beginning, “The amendment doesn’t state…’, but there is time enough for debate on the questions if and when opinion in the country becomes firm enough for Remain to influence the Government or/and the official Opposition.

  • David Allen 21st Dec '17 - 7:05pm

    (From matt): “Legislating for a 2nd referendum now would just mean that we are offered the very worst deal by the EU in the hope that it would be rejected by the people.”

    If we have a second referendum, the EU will negotiate the best deal for themselves which they can achieve. If we don’t have a second referendum, the EU will negotiate the best deal for themselves which they can achieve.

    Why should the EU, if they were to discover that we definitely won’t have a second referendum, suddenly decide to turn around and make their offer to us more generous than it would otherwise have been?

    Your argument (you have borrowed it from Theresa May – which should have worried you!) can only be correct if one assumes that the UK could gain an improvement in the terms on offer from the EU by promising not to hold a second referendum. Which is complete nonsense, of course!

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    I am sorry that my first comment was not clearer. In the 2016 referendum people voted either “Remain” or “Leave” as set out in the European Union Referendum Act 2015 cause 1 (5) “The alternative answers to that question that are to appear on the ballot papers are—

    “Remain a member of the European Union

    Leave the European Union”.

    Our amendment did not state this. If we could have bothered to compose it better it could have read:

    “The alternative answers to that question that are to appear on the ballot papers are—

    “Support the Government’s proposed new agreement between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar and the European Union

    Remain a member of the European Union”.

    It just seems to me, that our MPs just couldn’t be bothered.

  • @David Allen

    It would all depend on the the terms on the referendum question.

    If the EU thought the question was going to be

    A) Accept the Deal negotiated by the Government
    B) Reject the Deal negotiated by the Government and resort to WTO

    I suspect the EU would be motivated to give us the best deal possible,

    If however as this party and other remainers hopes, the referendum was legislated for, before we even know what the deal looks like and the question on the ballot was going to be
    A) Accept the Deal negotiated by the Government
    B) Exit from Brexit and remain a member of the European Union

    Then it is fair to say that the EU is going to give us the worse possible deal in the assumption that the UK will vote to remain.

    It is not rocket science.

    Deep down the EU does not want us to leave because the UK being one of the largest net contributors and once we have left it is going to cause no end of political difficulties for the renaming net contributors

    Again it is not rocket science.

  • David Allen-
    Well said. The idea that a second referendum would influence the EU is very dubious. If you argue that the people should not have a say on whether we leave the EU or not, this should also apply to the first referendum -it should not have taken place.

  • It could also work the other way – the prospect of a second referendum could get us a better deal. The EU would offer a good deal in the hope of keeping us out – so they can get on with their business without characters like Farage and Johnson running amok, egged on by our fanatical press.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Dec '17 - 8:02pm

    Well, Michael BG, it seems the deviser of Amendment 120 was not as precise as you! I like the formulation you propose.

  • matt,

    You are assuming (a) that one side (the EU) is so dominant that it can simply dictate the terms, (b) that despite this dominant position, the EU could decide not to press home all its advantages in certain circumstances, and would specifically choose to do that if the UK promised not to call a second referendum. Aren’t those rather crazy assumptions? In most negotiations, (a) both sides have at least some leverage, (b) no dominant side ever makes unnecessary concessions for no good reason.

    If the EU offer the UK a very hard deal, what could the UK do? The UK could accept the humiliating terms: or the UK could walk out with no deal at all: or the UK could seek to withdraw from Brexit. Given that no deal is (in truth) even worse than a very hard deal, and given that to withdraw from Brexit would be humiliating for the Brexiteers, the likelihood is that the UK would choose to accept the humiliating terms.

    Given that the EU side can foresee this, the EU side will be motivated to strike a very favourable deal for themselves. The only limit on how tough they can be is that they won’t be able to strike a deal which is actually worse for the UK than no deal. And that’s a pretty dreadful deal. Having or not having a second referendum would make absolutely no difference to any of this.

    Before anybody gets too sympathetic for the poor Brexiteers in this awful predicament, let’s just point out that they put themselves there. They chose to enter the tiger cage and to give the tiger a hard kicking, which the tiger had done nothing to deserve. At the moment, the tiger is sitting there growling gently and trying to convince itself that it is a peaceful vegetarian creature. Meanwhile Boris and the Brexiteers are still dancing around the cage sneering at the tiger. Cross fingers, Britain.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    Thank you. I do wonder why if I can do it while having breakfast our MPs couldn’t do it when they were drafting our amendment.

    @ Matt
    “Deep down the EU does not want us to leave”

    I hope you are correct that the rest of the EU doesn’t want us to leave and if there is an Act of Parliament for a referendum on the deal which includes staying in the EU to be held before we leave, that the rest of the EU will provide a “stay-in deal” which reduces the number of economic migrants across the EU, gives every country improved means of reducing economic migration and has a list of powers be taken back by national governments to reduce conformity across the EU, which persuades a majority of the British electorate to vote to stay-in the EU.

  • I used to be a Jo Grimond, Home Rule, Free Trader, Centrist Liberal.
    Then came the SDLP.
    I am now a Home Ruler (DevoMax +++++ including Home Rule for UK and England), Free Trader (anti subsidy and other protectionist trade obstacles), Climate Change sceptic, Unionist (aka a BREXITEER).
    Three questions that are preventing me returning to the Liberal fold:-
    1. Does SDLP support George Soros and Verhofstadt’s campaigns for Open Britain/Europe/Society, ever closer Union and Federal EU Government.
    2. Climate Change. I will remain a sceptic until somebody can provide me with a scientific explanation of the Great Flood which inter alia caused Doggerland to become submerged under under >30 meters of water and Orkney to be separated from the UK mainland by formation of the Pentland Firth (Alisdair Carmichael please note).
    3. I fell out with my father because he promoted what was referred to as the LibLab pact in the 1950s. I preferred a Lib coalition with the Conservatives. Was the coalition with Cameron really as painful as is now portrayed? Is TMPM really a wicked witch as Momentum would have us believe or is her heart in the right place same-oh the good fairy?

  • @ jamesm Commiserations.

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