POLITICS
23/01/2019 16:01 GMT | Updated 23/01/2019 16:02 GMT

Doctor MPs Demanding People's Vote Hold Back Key Brexit Amendment

The cross-party group is waiting for rows over parliamentary process to die down.

Four doctor MPs trying to secure a second Brexit referendum will hold off until rows over parliamentary process subside, HuffPost UK has learned. 

The “doctors’ amendment” to the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal will aim to give legal weight to demands for a fresh poll by asserting the principle of “informed consent”. 

But the four MPs behind it – Labour’s Paul Williams, the SNP’s Philippa Whitford and Tories Sarah Wollaston and Phillip Lee – who were expected to launch their bid this week, admit there is not yet a majority and fear firing the gun too soon will see MPs reject it. 

It comes as cross-party calls for a soft Norway-style Brexit, led by former minister Nick Boles, were gaining traction and a backbench bid to seize control of parliamentary time to discuss it looked set to win support.  

Wollaston has previously said that the doctors’ amendment could force a so-called ‘People’s Vote’ on leaving the EU, with Remain on the ballot paper. 

“People need to give valid informed consent,” she told the Guardian last week. “You can only give consent if you know what you are consenting to.” 

But Williams said today that the four MPs would make a final decision on whether to launch their plan next week.  

He told HuffPost UK: “MPs are talking with each other and trying to work out the best time to win an ‘informed consent’ vote.

“We owe it to millions of people who have campaigned for it to give them the chance to have the final say on the Brexit deal, and we need to make sure that it comes before parliament when we’re confident that the majority of MPs agree with us.” 

PA Wire/PA Images
Dr Sarah Wollaston has said MPs should get "informed consent" from the public for leaving the European Union 

Cross-party efforts to amend the prime minister’s Brexit ‘Plan B’ were focused on upending the parliamentary timetable to fend off the threat of a no-deal exit. 

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said on Tuesday night that it was “highly likely” that Labour would whip its MPs to back an amendment by Yvette Cooper, which paves the way for an extension of Article 50 if crashing out without a deal was imminent. 

The Labour MP’s amendment, if passed, would carve out time for politicians to consider a private members’ bill with cross-party backing on a Plan B Brexit. 

Then, if MPs are still unable to settle on a withdrawal plan, Cooper’s plan would force the government to seek an Article 50 extension for as long as nine months. 

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has said a string of ministers were willing to resign to back Cooper’s amendment should the government refuse to adopt it, meaning with Labour’s support the move was likely to pass and MPs could soon be weighing up a soft Brexit. 

Pushers of a hard Brexit, meanwhile, are aiming to secure a time-limited Northern Irish backstop via an amendment by Tory Andrew Murrison.

The prime minister is believed not to have given up hope of securing the support of both the DUPand the Brexit-backing European Research Group wing of her party, led by backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg.

People’s Vote proponents, however, insist MPs will eventually rule out both soft and hard Brexit options and reach the conclusion a second referendum is the only route forward. 

One backer of the campaign told HuffPost UK it was “just not true” there was not a silent majority in favour, despite a number of Labour MPs ruling out voting for a re-run.