'No second-guessing will of British people with vote on Brexit in Parliament'

A Union flag on sale at a souvenir stall flies in the breeze opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain.
A Union flag on sale at a souvenir stall flies in the breeze opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - The British government said on Monday (Oct 10) that holding a second vote in Parliament on the country's exit from the European Union would not be acceptable, but that lawmakers would have a role to play in scrutinising the Brexit process.

"Parliament is of course going to debate and scrutinise that process as it goes on. That is absolutely necessary and the right thing to do," a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters.

"But, having a second vote, or a vote to second-guess the will of the British people is not an acceptable way forward."

The statement came after a group of British MPs called on Monday for a parliamentary vote on Britain’s future ties with the EU and warned that a hard Brexit was a “grave danger”. 
The MPs made the call after Mrs May’s government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on Sunday (Oct 9) when it backtracked on a proposal for companies to publish lists of foreign employees that caused widespread outrage.
“We do want Parliament to debate... most notably (on) whether we remain in the single market,” Ms Anna Soubry, an MP from Mrs May’s Conservative Party, told BBC radio.
Ms Soubry said there was a “grave danger” of the government drawing its own conclusions from the result of the referendum about the type of future relationship that Britons wanted with the EU.
“It is not good for our country,” she said.
Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband also said on Twitter: “The PM must get parliamentary consent for her Brexit negotiating position. No referendum mandate for hard Brexit nor a Commons majority”.
“Negotiating secrecy won’t wash as an excuse. The country has a right to know the government’s Brexit strategy and Parliament must vote on it,” he said.
Experts say a so-called hard Brexit would mean Britain withdrawing entirely from Europe’s single market and negotiating new trade arrangements in order to impose strict immigration controls.
EU leaders have said Britain must accept free movement of people if it wants access to the single market and have warned the negotiations will be tough.
Concern that Britain is heading for this option dragged the pound down to 31-year lows against the dollar last week and prompted business leaders to call on Mrs May to avoid breaking economic ties.
Norway is instead seen as a possible model for “soft” Brexit, where Britain would be out of the EU but would retain strong economic ties, make budget contributions and allow free movement of people.
Brexit minister David Davis was due to address Parliament later on Monday about the so-called Great Repeal Bill – a proposed law that Mrs May says will legally help to seal Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc.
Mrs May faces further pressure this week with a High Court legal challenge arguing that there has to be a vote in Parliament on whether or not Britain can invoke Article 50, the formal procedure for exit.
The dispute could end up in Britain’s Supreme Court.
The government has argued it has “royal prerogative” – an executive privilege normally applied to foreign policy – to trigger Article 50 without consultation.
Mrs May has said she will invoke Article 50 by the end of March, opening an expected two-year negotiation that could see Britain leave the EU in early 2019.
The EU has said formal negotiations cannot start until Article 50 has been invoked, but Mrs May has embarked on a flurry of diplomacy ahead of a summit with EU leaders in Brussels on October 20-21.
Mrs May visited Denmark and the Netherlands on Monday.