Top Tory demands second Brexit referendum as Theresa May faces Commons showdown
A Tory former Cabinet minister today demanded a second referendum on Brexit as Theresa May faces a Commons showdown with her own MPs.
Justine Greening, the former Education Secretary, joined the chorus of both Remain and Leave voices coming out against the Prime Minister’s new ‘soft Brexit’ plan.
Ms Greening is now the third pro-EU Tory MP to publicly back a so-called ‘People’s Vote’ on the Brexit deal, after Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston. And she told the BBC others agree with her privately.
Her announcement heaps fresh pressure on Mrs May as she faces a rebellion from both sides in Commons votes tonight on her Customs Bill.
A furious row erupted over customs last week when the government unveiled plans to keep a "common rulebook" with the EU on goods imports.
Brexiteers say this will keep Britain shackled powerless to the EU – and both Boris Johnson and David Davis quit the Cabinet in protest. But Remainers say it does not go far enough.
Today Ms Greening said the plan was "the worst of both worlds" and called for the decision to be put to the people of Britain.
She warned otherwise, the deal will simply be voted down by Parliament in its entirety in October leaving the country in the lurch.
"Parliament’s deadlocked," she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain. "Parliament works on party political lines and we’re trying to cope with something that isn’t party political, Brexit.
"And as far as I can see it doesn’t matter what the proposal is in front of MPs, they’ll vote it down [in October].
"We have to go somewhere. I’m also fed up frankly with all the backroom deals that are going on constantly to get various Bills through.
"The only way we can deal with that is to go to the people."
It comes as Theresa May faces a Commons showdown on Brexit customs plans tonight.
Remainers have tabled amendments to the Customs Bill that would force Britain to stay in a full customs union with the EU.
Meanwhile Brexiteer ringleader Jacob Rees-Mogg has also tabled amendments that would sabotage Mrs May’s plan.
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The Tory Brexiteer amendments will not pass because Labour are not backing them.
But they’ll reveal the number of Tory MPs prepared to defy the Prime Minister – who crucially would need 48 letters of no confidence to trigger a leadership contest.
Tory Leaver Steve Baker is said to be organising the rebels just days after he resigned as a Brexit Minister.
Last night a junior government aide, Robert Courts, became the latest Brexiteer to resign in protest at Mrs May’s approach.
The MP, who represents David Cameron’s former seat of Witney, said: "I have taken very difficult decision to resign position as PPS to express discontent with Chequers in votes.
"I had to think who I wanted to see in the mirror for the rest of my life. I cannot tell the people of West Oxon that I support the proposals in their current form."
Reports today suggested Mrs May was prepared to make concessions on some of the less contentious aspects of the amendments to try and prevent a mass revolt.
But Tory Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin suggested Mrs May’s Chequers plan was "dead".
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "I’m afraid it is neither beloved by Remainers or Leavers.
"It’s also quite likely to be either rejected by the EU or more demands will be made upon it so it will be even less acceptable."
He described Ms Greening’s call for a second referendum as "a little ill-thought out", saying: "If we wanted to extend the uncertainty for another long period this is one way of doing it."
Chequers Brexit deal explained – and why it’s forced Boris Johnson and David Davis to resign
Theresa May agreed a major shift to soft Brexit at her country retreat Chequers – prompting her Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to quit.
The ‘third way’ plan for UK customs rules proposed keeping the UK closely aligned with the EU in a new "free trade area" for goods.
This will include sharing a "common rulebook" for all goods including agricultural and food products – and a possible compromise on migration.
To appease Brexiteers, Parliament would keep the right to block future changes to the trading rules.
But Brexiteers were enraged by this close link with Brussels and David Davis said this olive branch was meaningless in practice.
The deal also proposes a "common rulebook" with the EU on state aid rules, and agrees to "step up" backup plans for a No Deal Brexit. A full White Paper was due to be published on Thursday 12 July.
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