There should be a democratic public vote on whether to accept the deal the Government achieves to leave the EU, a Labour former trade minister has said.
Gareth Thomas told the Commons a people’s vote would allow the public, rather than just MPs, to make the final decision about whether to accept the Brexit deal.
The MP for Harrow West said he respected the outcome of the 2016 referendum to leave the EU, voting for Article 50 to be triggered, but added that “the terms on which we leave and Britain’s future relationship with the EU were never clearly defined or put to the public in 2016”.
He said: “New facts have emerged about Brexit which could never have been known at the time of the referendum. We now know that the promises made about Brexit, like £350 million a week extra for the NHS and getting a deal with the exact same benefits, won’t be kept.
“And who knew that Brexit negotiators would be willing to hand over £40 billion in order to leave the EU and for a much worse relationship.
“With negotiations obviously not going well and the Cabinet not able to agree amongst itself even on future customs arrangements and what to do about the Northern Ireland border, it is more and more likely that the Government will present us with a poor deal.
“In those circumstances why should our country, our fellow citizens, have to accept it without having had any chance to influence the hard Brexit the Government looks like it is going to deliver. We have gone from the fastest growing economy in the G7 to the slowest.”
Mr Thomas argued that nations such as the US, when negotiating a possible trade deal, would expect the UK to lower the environmental, health and safety standards, adding: “Chlorinated chicken would be just the start.”
He said: “If much of our future relationship remains unclear, it will be even more important to have a people’s vote because of the danger that we will be charging off into the unknown.”
On something as big as the Brexit deal, he said, why should it only be MPs who got to decide what was good enough.
He added: “The 65 million people of this great country deserve to have their voices heard on the Brexit deal as well, so that’s why I support the people’s vote on the terms of Brexit.”
His European Union Withdrawal Agreement (Public Vote) Bill would provide that any withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU shall not have effect without a vote by the electorate of the UK and Gibraltar to that effect and to make arrangements for the holding of such a public vote.
His Bill was listed for a second reading on July 6 but is unlikely to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.