04/03/2018 13:40 GMT | Updated 04/03/2018 14:41 GMT

Tory MPs Should Not Get Free Vote On Brexit Deal, Says David Lidington

Sir John Major has demanded MPs be free from party Whip.

PA Wire/PA Images

Theresa May should not give MPs a free vote on her Brexit deal, one of her most senior ministers has said.

Sir John Major has demanded Tory MPs be allowed to vote how they like when May returns from Brussels with an agreement.

But Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, May’s de facto deputy prime minister, today rejected the former Tory prime minister’s call.

Lidington said May could be expcted to whip her MPs to back her in the planned Commons “meaningful vote”.

“She is entitled to expect her government and her party to support her in that,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has written to May and Jeremy Corbyn to demand Tory and Labour MPs be given a free vote.

“No-one should be whipped on such an era-defining issue,” he says in his letter.  

PA Wire/PA Images

Lidington added he hoped Labour “won’t sort of try to score party political points” when it comes to the vote.

“I make no apologies for the fact I was an ardent Remainer in the referendum campaign and I don’t resile from the, the stance I took then,” he said.

“I said at that time before and after that referendum that this was a matter for the British people to decide and I think that it would be dangerous in terms of what’s a pretty fragile public confidence in our democratic institutions for politicians to say now well actually I know we told you, electorate that this was your decision, but we’ve changed our minds because we didn’t like the answer we gave you.”

In a speech last week, Sir John said parliament must have a free vote on whether to support the Brexit deal, send the negotiators back to seek improvements from Brussels, or hold a referendum on the agreement.

“The deep divisions in our nation are more likely to be healed by a Brexit freely approved by Parliament, than a Brexit forced through Parliament at the behest of a minority of convinced opponents of Europe.

“A free vote would better reflect the reality that – for every 17 voters who opted for Brexit – 16 opted to remain in the EU.

“But, regardless of whether a free vote is offered, Parliamentarians must decide the issue on the basis of their own conscience.  Upon whether, in mature judgement, they really do believe that the outcome of the negotiations is in the best interests of the people they serve. 

“By 2021, after the likely two-year transition, it will be five years since the 2016 referendum. The electorate will have changed. Some voters will have left us.  Many new voters will be enfranchised. Others may have changed their mind.”