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Brexit: Mark Prisk questions Justine Greening over her call for People's Vote

Bishop's Stortford's MP has told the House of Commons that a second Brexit referendum – a so-called People's Vote – would make the country even more divided.

Conservative Mark Prisk, who campaigned to Remain but has since backed the Government's position on leaving the European Union, spoke out in a debate on immigration opened by Home Secretary Sajid Javid last Wednesday (Dec 5).

Mr Javid said: "The coming weeks will be one of the most defining political periods not just of this Parliament or of our time as MPs, but since the Second World War.

"It is my belief that the deal on the table is the best option available in ensuring a smooth exit from the European Union. It will ensure that we leave the EU, as planned, on March 29 next year, that we take back control of our borders, that we end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK and that we stop sending vast sums of money to Brussels."

Fellow Conservative Justine Greening, the former Education Secretary, is a prominent supporter of a free vote for MPs and a second referendum to break what she has called the Brexit deadlock.

She said: "A proposed deal on leaving the EU is perhaps the ultimate national policy statement, yet we have virtually nothing. It is the political equivalent of being asked to jump out of a plane without knowing if your parachute is attached. It is like agreeing to move out of your house without knowing where you are going to live next, or not having agreed the sale price, but signing the contract anyway. None of us would do this in our own lives, yet the withdrawal agreement and political declaration ask us to do it on behalf of our country.

"Forcing the Prime Minister's deal through when it is universally unpopular will do nothing to heal the divisions in our country. In fact, it will be worse: it will kick the can down the road, which is exactly what the public expect politicians to do. It is a short-term political fix at the very time when we desperately need a long-term plan. People deserve better. That is why they are so frustrated.

"I know that the route forward that is left might be unpalatable to many, including Labour and Conservative front-benchers, but it may be the only viable route out of Parliament's gridlock, and that is to do what we always end up doing in a democracy: ask the people. A referendum can be held in 22 weeks. We could hold one on May 30."

Mr Prisk intervened: "My Right Honourable Friend spoke about the importance of healing divisions. Many of my constituents are very concerned that a second referendum would make those divisions worse. What does she say to them?"

Ms Greening replied: "I do not think we can heal divisions by pretending that they are not there.

"I, for one, argue that a referendum is one way in which we can enable millions of Leave voters who do not think the Government are delivering on the verdict of the referendum to have their say, in a way that they do not think is happening in this Parliament. We now have some clear-cut practical choices and we should put them on the table for the people to decide."

* The UK voted in the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016 by 51.9% to 48.1% to quit the EU and is scheduled to withdraw on March 29 next year. In East Herts, 50.4% voted Leave and 49.6% Remain on an 80.3% turnout.

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