Monday 14 October 2019

Theresa May warns of 'irreparable damage' in attempt to quash growing calls for a second Brexit referendum

Her team is warned talk of second referendum is 'insane'

British Prime Minister Theresa May REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
British Prime Minister Theresa May REUTERS/Francois Lenoir Newsdesk Newsdesk

BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May will state her opposition to a second Brexit referendum on Monday, telling parliament such a vote would "break faith" with British people and do "irreparable damage" to politics.

With Mrs May facing deadlock in parliament over her deal to leave the European Union and the bloc offering little in the way of concessions to win lawmakers over, more politicians are calling for a second referendum to break the impasse.

But May and her ministers have ruled out a new ballot, saying it would deepen already ugly divisions over Britain's biggest decision since World War II and betray voters who narrowly backed leaving the EU at a 2016 referendum.

That increases the risk of Britain leaving without a deal in less than four months, a scenario some businesses fear would be catastrophic for the world's fifth largest economy.

"Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum," May will tell lawmakers, according to extracts of her speech released in advance.

"Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver. Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last," she will say.

Her chief of staff and her de-facto deputy have been branded "completely insane" by cabinet ministers after allegedly talking up the prospect of a second referendum.


Gavin Barwell and David Lidington, the Cabinet Office Minister, have reportedly been laying the groundwork for a new vote on the UK leaving the European Union.

The revelation prompted fury among senior Conservatives as the pair were accused of "betrayal" and warned such a move would "damage trust in democracy".

Mr Lidington held talks with Labour MPs last week about winning cross-party backing for a second referendum while Mr Barwell told a cabinet minister another national vote was "the only way forward", according to the 'Sunday Times'.

The pair were directly challenged yesterday about their alleged comments by two former ministers on Twitter.

Mr Barwell said he did not want a second referendum, was not planning for one and he was "off to play football". He did not directly address the suggestion he had talked up the prospect of another vote.

Mr Lidington did not deny he had held talks and simply referenced previous comments he had made on the subject when he said a second referendum would be "divisive" and not necessarily "decisive".

One cabinet minister described two senior members of the government talking openly about a second referendum as "completely insane".

May returns to parliament after a visit to Brussels last week where she called on EU leaders to offer assurances over the so-called Northern Irish 'backstop' - an insurance policy to prevent the return of a hard border between the British province and Ireland that its critics fear will trap Britain.

But while EU leaders said they were willing to help May, they warned the British prime minister she could not renegotiate the deal, agreed earlier this year.


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