Thursday 8 December 2016

Theresa May to tell EU leaders there will be no second referendum

Rob Merrick

Published 20/10/2016 | 10:20

Theresa May will today tell other EU leaders to forget any notion that Britain will change its mind about Brexit, as she meets them all face-to-face for the first time.

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The Prime Minister will use her first European Council summit to kill off any suggestions of a second referendum, after the idea of a dramatic rethink was floated by its President.

Addressing all 27 other EU leaders over dinner in Brussels, Ms May will attempt to build bridges, by promising to make Britain a “strong partner of a strong Europe”, a No.10 source said.

That statement alone will disappoint some hard-line Brexiteers in her own party, who have made no secret of their desire for Brexit to be followed by a wider crumbling of the EU bloc.

But the Prime Minister will also urge the rest of the EU to get down to the urgent business of building a new, but close, trading and security partnership – with Britain on the outside.

Earlier this month, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, dangled the prospect of the British public backing out of Brexit, once they realised the painful reality of it.

And, yesterday, the pound rose on the back of Downing Street acknowledging it was “very likely” that Parliament would have the right to reject the final Brexit deal.

However, the source said Ms May’s message to the other 27 would be that the referendum result must be “honoured” – and that “there will be no second referendum”.

“There has been a sense that there is still some debate in certain quarters of the European Union – and I wouldn’t point to any specifics, but generally – about whether that might be still a possibility,” the source said.

“The prime minister has been absolutely clear many times that is not the case, but it is an opportunity for her to say that directly to all the leaders.

“We do need now to all be facing to the future – which is the UK outside the European Union.”

The two-day summit is expected to be a frosty affair, after EU leaders reacted badly to the Prime Minister’s conference pledge to deliver a so-called ‘hard Brexit’.

The backlash was immediate, with both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande vowing to ensure harsh consequences for that stance.

The united message of the other 27 EU nations will be that Britain will not enjoy the trade benefits of the single market without agreeing to play by its rules, on free migration and the authority of EU court rulings.

EU leaders have also insisted there will be no "pre-negotiation" before Ms May writes to Brussels to formally trigger Article 50, early next year, and specify Britain's demands.

For that reason, the Prime Minister’s words, over dinner tonight, may not be followed by a lengthy discussion of how Brexit will take place.

But, the source said: “From our perspective, the main aim is to have that first opportunity to address all 27 - Donald Tusk has agreed that she should do that.”

Ms May will also hold bilateral talks with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, and with the leaders of Estonia and Romania.

In addition, the summit will discuss a long-term solution to the summer migration crisis, action against Chinese ‘dumping’ of goods and the threat posed by Russia in both Syria and Eastern Ukraine.

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