Sunday 26 February 2017

Tory minister calls for second referendum on terms of leaving EU

Matthew Holehouse and Peter Foster

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is the first minister to suggest Britain could hold another vote on Brexit, despite the 'Leave' victory last week. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is the first minister to suggest Britain could hold another vote on Brexit, despite the 'Leave' victory last week. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Britain should have a second referendum on the terms of leaving the European Union if it can secure a deal to control its borders, a Tory Cabinet minister has said.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is the first minister to suggest Britain could hold another vote on Brexit, despite the 'Leave' victory last week.

He says the new prime minister must be allowed to "negotiate a deal" with Brussels and "put it to the British people" either by calling a general election or having another referendum.

Britain must remain in the single market and needs to reach a "sensible compromise" with the EU over freedom of movement rules to allow the UK to control migration, he insists.

Mr Hunt says: "We must not invoke Article 50 straight away because that puts a time limit of two years on negotiations, after which we could be thrown out with no deal at all."

Poland yesterday said that Britain should have a second referendum, in stark contrast to other EU countries' calls for the UK to begin the process of leaving immediately. The Czech Republic called for Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, to step down over his failure to keep Britain in the EU. Polish and Austrian politicians added their voices to the calls.

Today, David Cameron will attend a European Council meeting in Brussels - the first time he will have seen European leaders since the vote - amid signs of a growing split in Europe over how to handle Brexit.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, Mr Cameron suggested a second referendum is possible but that it will be a decision for the next prime minister.

He said there is a "very strong case" for remaining in the single market, something which EU leaders say is impossible without accepting unlimited numbers of migrants from the Continent.

Both Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron insist that the result of the referendum must be accepted and that Britain will leave. However, their comments risk angering Eurosceptics who believe that ending freedom of movement rules is a "red line" and may accuse them of ignoring the vote to Leave the EU.

European diplomats said yesterday that Britain has no chance of getting access to the single market unless it accepts free movement. A Norway-style deal that grants UK access to the single market could only come with unlimited EU migration as a condition.

Addressing MPs in the Commons for the first time after announcing his resignation, Mr Cameron warned that pro-EU MPs and ministers must not attempt to block a Brexit.

As MPs returned to Westminster for the first time since the historic Brexit vote, the party's influential 1922 Committee said a new Conservative leader should be in place by September 2, with nominations set to open tomorrow.

The short timescale, which must be approved by the party's board today, will favour Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the race, allowing him to harness the momentum from Leave's referendum victory to garner support among the 125,000 Conservative members who will elect the next leader, and the next PM.

Irish Independent

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