Norman Lamb attacks Brexit deal and backs second referendum

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has lamented the delays faced by PIP and ESA appellants Photo: PA / And

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has lamented the delays faced by PIP and ESA appellants Photo: PA / Andrew Matthews - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

An MP who backed staying in the EU but abstained on the vote to trigger Article 50 has announced he cannot support Theresa May's Brexit deal.

Norman Lamb, who campaigned for Remain but whose North Norfolk constituency voted heavily for Brexit, said he does not believe the deal will heal a divided nation.

The Liberal Democrat said: 'I thought it was right to take some time to properly read the deal. I was shocked and found it extraordinary that so many people came out so quickly to either praise or condemn it. We currently have two tribes shouting at each other and it is no way to conduct politics.

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'I have a responsibility to make the best judgment in the national interest. I do not think this deal resolves anything. Therefore I cannot back Theresa May's deal. She has attempted to find a place between two stark positions. But I have been lobbied by both Remainers and Leavers to vote against the deal.

'Since the referendum we have not confronted a lot of the issues we face as a country – a lot of the issues that led to the Brexit vote in the first place. And the deal would only prolong the agony.

'If the deal healed the divide in our nation I would be happy to vote for it. But it does not. I do not think we achieve our object by supporting it.'

And Mr Lamb confirmed he now thinks the best way to move forward is to hold a second referendum with the choice to stay in the EU on the ballot paper.

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'I think this now has to go back to the British people,' he said. 'This is a fatally divided government and I do not think the British people can be expected to trust it.

'It is almost inevitable that this deal cannot get through parliament. The government has lost the support of the DUP and around 90 Tory MPs have said they will vote against the deal.

'The road to salvation is fraught with high danger but I believe that we must go back to the people. There is no guarantee that it would heal the divide. But I do think this is the best way out of the current position we are in.

'I have always argued the case for Remain. But I would like Britain to be in a radically reformed European Union not to go back to the status quo we had before – that would not answer any of the concerns people had.'

A vote on Mrs May's deal is expected on December 12.