Grimsby MP Melanie Onn resigns from Labour role to vote AGAINST new Brexit referendum

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 28 Mar 2019

Melanie Onn has quit her Labour job to vote against holding a public vote on a Brexit deal.

The Great Grimsby MP wrote to the opposition chief whip this evening to inform him that she was resigning from her position on Labour’s front bench to vote against a “confirmatory public vote” on any Brexit deal that Parliament agrees.

The Labour Party on Wednesday set a three-line whip for MPs to back a proposal for a public vote to be held on any negotiated Brexit deal. It was one of eight proposals MPs were voting on as part of so-called indicative votes on possible Brexit options.

Ms Onn, who has stood down as shadow housing minister, said: “I have done it, I have resigned. I have been saying for a long-time I wouldn’t vote for a second referendum.

“The party was aware of my long-held views around a second referendum and the difficult and uncomfortable position that whipping it was putting me in.

“We kept being asked to hold back but I felt there was a point at which I had to say, I don’t agree with this and I don’t agree with the party’s interpretation of the policy on this and I can’t support the motion,” she said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told his MPs to vote for a public vote on any Parliament-approved Brexit deal (Image: PA)

Ms Onn said those on the front bench who represent leave seats had been told they could abstain on the confirmatory public vote motion but she decided to make a firm statement by resigning to vote against it.

She ruled out backing a second referendum in January saying that leave-voting Grimsby had not changed its mind on leaving the European Union.

Her days on the opposition front bench looked numbered once leader Jeremy Corbyn confirmed a month later that he would be pursuing a public vote after Labour’s alternative Brexit plan was defeated in the House of Commons.

Ms Onn had previously abstained on proposals she did not agree with – including allowing Parliament to delay the Brexit date – but tonight she accepted he could no longer continue with that tactic.

Mr Corbyn wrote to MPs before they took part in the indicative votes to re-iterate that “Labour’s proposed deal remains our preferred solution” but that a public vote should “remain an option to prevent a disastrous no-deal Brexit or a Tory Brexit deal”.

But Ms Onn said that was “not what the motion said”. She said: “The motion did not say it was about keeping it on the table as a last-ditch option.

“It said we would hold a public vote on any deal, including our own. If we secured multiple changes to the Prime Minister’s deal and got changes that the party or the whole House agreed to, then – despite than unanimity and securing concession – we would still go to the public.

“We decided to whip on it even though it was non-binding. I did not feel like I had any other option but to stand down.”

Theresa May has told Tory MPs she will step down if they approve her Brexit deal (Image: Steve Parsons/PA Wire)

During the indicative votes, Ms Onn voted for what she deemed “positive” leave options, including staying in a customs union, Labour’s own alternative plan and the Common Market 2.0 model which entails staying in the single market and also negotiating a customs arrangement.

Ms Onn had been targeted by Downing Street as one of the Labour MPs representing a leave seat who could be persuaded to back the PM’s Brexit deal.

But the town’s MP said Theresa May’s decision to stand down if her Brexit deal passes “did not inspire confidence”.

“I have been in a position where I thought, ‘If she makes some concessions in her deal I would be prepared to vote for it' – and that would be a real stretch to do that,” she said.

“It is not that I am completely hostile to voting for her deal but it is what the final deal looks like. And now that she is in hock to the ERG opportunists, that doesn’t inspire confidence. If she is not there to see it through, who knows what the next person will do, especially if they are a right-wing Brexiteer.

“She has basically completely offered herself up as a sacrificial lamb to persuade those hard-right Tories to vote for it.”

Melanie Onn full statement as she resigns from Labour frontbench over Brexit

Great Grimsby MP Melanie Onn has brought up the issue of homeless deaths in Parliament

Grimsby MP Melanie Onn has resigned from Labour's frontbench saying she cannot support her party's policy to support a second referendum on Brexit.

Ms Onn had previously stated her objection to a second so-called "People's Vote" on the grounds that voters in Grimsby voted solidly for Brexit.

Following her decision, made shortly before a series of 'indicative' votes in the House of Commons which tried but failed to find a clear route for Brexit, Ms Onn issued a statement saying she had resigned as shadow housing minister.

Her decision is a blow for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party as pressure grows from northern MPs in particular whose constituencies backed Brexit.

Melanie Onn's full statement

"Tonight the House of Commons held a series of indicative votes (not binding or conclusive) on a number of options to try to find a way out of this Brexit mess, that all MPs would be prepared to accept.

I have made it very clear over the past two and half years that I am keen to find a deal to leave the EU in order to deliver on the wish of the majority of constituents in Grimsby, which doesn’t put at risk people jobs, homes and livelihoods.

So tonight I made the decision to say that, as a starting point to improving the Prime Minister twice-defeated agreement, I would back former Conservative MP Nick Boles’ motion Common Market 2.0 to take us back to the point at which we first joined the EEC in 1973, I also supported Conservative Ken Clarke’s customs union option and the Labour Party’s Alternative Plan.

(Image: Jon Corken/GrimsbyLive)

I did not support leaving with no deal in the middle of April because local businesses have expressed to me just how damaging that would be to the logistics of their day to day operations, moving goods and people between UK and EU ports and could result in job losses in the local area. It is an irresponsible course of action that would damage local business and jobs.

Finally, I did not vote for a ‘confirmatory public vote’. In practice this would mean a second referendum which I have said previously that I would not support. In the past I have been convinced to abstain ie) not take part, when this topic has come up, but felt that I had to fully assert my objection to a policy that reflects a great number of Labour MPs positions but not those of their constituents. As it was a whipped vote, I have regretfully resigned from Labour’s frontbench Housing team.

I still believe that Parliament has a responsibility to find a way through this in the best way possible, and the ultimate test of public opinion on a policy lies in a General Election. It is the Prime Minister’s course of action in leading her party and the country that should be put to the test.

Melanie Onn MP for Grimsby says she has to reflect the views of Brexit backing Grimsby (Image: GrimsbyLive)

Earlier today the Prime Minister went to a meeting of her backbenchers (known as the 1922 Committee) and in a last ditch bid to secure support has said that she will step aside if all Tory MPs come together to support her dreadful deal. For those Hard Right Tories who have spent the last months claiming points of principle around the Northern Ireland backstop and saying that they could never countenance supporting the PMs deal, they have finally been exposed for what they are – nothing more than opportunists.

They have spent all this time making things as humiliating and difficult for their own Prime Minister simply in order to destabilise things to such a degree that they have the chance to get their hands on No 10 all for themselves."

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