A proposal to hold a second Brexit referendum was voted down in Parliament, as members of Parliament who support the U.K. remaining in the European Union decided not to back the amendment because they felt it would jeopardize the chances of such a motion succeeding in the future.
U.S. President Donald Trump said, ahead of a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Washington, that he did not think a second Brexit referendum would be "possible" as it would be "unfair to people who have won."
In comments that are likely to add to Prime Minister Theresa May's woes, he also said: "I'm surprised at how badly it has all gone from a standpoint of negotiations, but I gave the prime minister my ideas of how to negotiate it. She didn't listen to that, and that's fine, but it could have been negotiated in a different manner."
His comments came as the House of Commons began another series of votes related to Brexit. MPs had the chance to vote on whether they would support a second referendum, in addition to the main vote on whether to delay Brexit, which is currently scheduled for March 29.
The vote on a second referendum came as a result of an amendment brought by MP Sarah Wollaston, who quit the ruling Conservative party over Brexit to join an independent group of MPs, most of whom oppose Brexit.
MPs voted 334-85 to reject the amendment calling for a second referendum. MPs also voted 314-311 to reject an amendment that would have meant any delay to Article 50 — the legal process for leaving the EU — would only be until June 30. Most crucially, an amendment that would have allowed MPs to take control of the Brexit process from Prime Minister Theresa May was defeated 314-312. Finally, MPs voted 412-202 in favor of extending Article 50.
Labour, the official opposition party in the House of Commons, said it would not support the move to call for a new referendum. Its main Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said, "Today is about a different issue."
Conservative MPs who want the U.K. to remain in the EU also indicated they would not back the Wollaston amendment. Without the official backing of either Labour or Conservative Remain supporters, the amendment is unlikely to pass. The main campaigning group for a second referendum, the People’s Vote group, also said it does not want MPs to support the Wollaston amendment and advised them to abstain: "We do not think today is the right time to test the will of the House on the case for a new public vote. Instead, this is the time for Parliament to declare it wants an extension of Article 50 so that, after two-and-a-half years of vexed negotiations, our political leaders can finally decide on what Brexit means," it said in a statement.
Labour MP and People’s Vote supporter Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan said on Twitter: "I’m a proud supporter of a People’s Vote and will do everything I can to make it happen — but tonight’s amendment won’t work — it’ll ruin our chances of success."
Meanwhile, the Institute of Directors, or IoD, which represents company directors and senior business leaders, has reiterated that businesses were desperate for certainty.
"Theresa May’s deal is not perfect but it does provide a transition period, and we want to see a withdrawal deal get across the line," said a spokesman for the IoD. The business lobby group, along with the Confederation of British Industry, British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Business and the manufacturing body EEF, have all backed the government’s deal. The group has said previously that business is "watching in horror" at the chaos in Parliament as Brexit approaches.
The IoD’s latest survey of 1,200 business leaders showed that nearly 80% of company directors rejected the option of leaving the EU without a deal and 45% of its members supported a second referendum to break the deadlock. Nearly three-quarters, 72%, said having a withdrawal agreement in place was important to business.