Burnham-On-Sea MP James Heappey has told the House of Commons that “being very candid with the electorate is the right thing to do right now” during this week’s Brexit debate.
Mr Heappey made the comment when asking a question about a possible second referendum to MP Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee and the Commons Liaison Committee.
He said: “I agree that being very candid with the electorate is the right thing to do right now. Should we also be candid with them about the mechanism for delivering a second referendum—about the fact that it would require an Act of Parliament; about the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill taking 348 days to get through the Houses of Parliament; and about there being absolutely no expectation that a Bill as controversial as a second referendum Bill would be able to progress through this place any quicker?”
MP Sarah Wollaston responded: “I ask my hon. Friend to have a look at the work of the Constitution Unit and others, who estimate that we could get a referendum Bill through the House in 22 weeks. We would first need to extend article 50.”
“That is what I hope that the Prime Minister does. I hope that she looks at the reality of the situation, extends article 50, and asks the British people, “Is this the Brexit you voted for, or do you want to stay with the deal we have?”—the one that has served us well for decades. That question has to go back to the British people.”
“None of us in this House should be forced into a false choice—into choosing a bad deal because we are told that the only alternative is no deal. That is simply not the case, and I believe that the House will reject the deal. That is why I support the amendment in the name of Hilary Benn rejecting no deal, and urge colleagues to do the same.”
“The House should ask to extend article 50, so that we have the time to consider where we go from here. Otherwise, in 114 days, we run out of road and fall off a cliff. What is needed now—this message is for the Opposition Front Benchers as well as ours—is a BFO: a blinding flash of the obvious. We need to think again. Delivering on a people’s vote will require the Opposition Front Benchers not to cling to the idea that they will force a general election; we know that will not happen, either.”
“We do not have any time to waste. We need Members on both Front Benches to give a free vote, or deliver support for a people’s vote. That is the way forward. This House would decide the exact question. I believe that the choice should be between this deal and remain; I know others feel that the question should be more complex. We do not have to decide that now—it is something that the House could decide later—but we must not run out of road; we must extend article 50.”