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Stortford MP Mark Prisk is 'not inclined' to support a People's Vote on Brexit

MP Mark Prisk
MP Mark Prisk

Bishop’s Stortford’s MP, Conservative Mark Prisk, has said he is “not inclined” to support a second referendum on Brexit.

Tonight (Thursday, March 14) the House of Commons will vote on delaying the UK’s departure from the European Union after two votes last night (Wednesday) to reject crashing out with no-deal on March 29. Amendments to the motion to extend Article 50 accepted by the Speaker John Bercow include one to allow enough time for a People’s Vote.

Speaking earlier today, the former business minister said he was still considering his course of action.

He said: “There are about seven amendments to the Government’s own motion, and I am told there may be more tabled. So I need to see them all and understand what each would do and how they relate to the main motion. So I can’t tell you at this moment how I will vote on these.”

Mr Prisk, who has represented the Hertford and Stortford constituency since 2001, said yesterday (Wednesday) that he would vote to block a no-deal and has faced criticism online not following through last night.

He said: “I feel strongly that we need to resolve this issue. It’s dragged on for too long, which is why I supported the Prime Minister’s deal and why I backed the so-called Malthouse Compromise to try and find a practical way to conclude this.

“I am wary of pushing this whole issue out too far as it's just putting off the problem. Business and people need to know where they stand. That’s one of the reasons I remain doubtful about a second referendum. Most constituents who write to me have strongly held and set views which haven’t changed at all. So even if we could get the Commons to agree to such a move and then to what the question would be, there’s every chance that we would find ourselves back at this point in six months time, after a bitter and divisive referendum. So on balance, I am not inclined to support a second referendum.”

He explained why he did not vote in favour of a first amendment last night, tabled by former Herts and Essex High School student, Dame Caroline Spelman, now the MP for Meriden in the West Midlands since 1997. It would have definitively rejected a no-deal Brexit and was carried by 312 votes to 308.

Mr Prisk said: “I voted against amendment A because it was open-ended. Indeed the proposer, Dame Caroline Spelman, tried to withdraw her amendment, but it was pushed through by Labour. It could have the effect of us permanently staying in the EU which would be counter to the results of the referendum.”

The Malthouse Compromise he supported, which would have extended the transition period by one year to 2021 to give extra time to strike trade agreements, was defeated by 374 votes to 164.

Finally, MPs reinforced their rejection of a no-deal Brexit by 321 to 278, a majority of 43.

The motion said the UK should not leave the EU without a deal specifically on March 29, but with the option of a no-deal Brexit at any other time.

Although it was originally the government's motion, to keep control of the Brexit process, whips ordered Conservative MPs to vote against it and Mr Prisk was one of those who complied.

Mr Prisk explained his decision: “Part of the problem for people outside to understand is that as amendments are put and either succeed or fail so it affects subsequent votes. You have to look at them together and in sequence.

“By the time we got to the main motion, it had been amended by A which I had already voted against. So the logic was to vote as I did.”

But he said: “Again all through this, my preference was to get a deal agreed - so we could respect the referendum but leave in an orderly fashion.”

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