British Prime Minister Theresa May has told Brexit opponents that to hold a second referendum would be a “gross betrayal” of the country’s democracy, in a strident piece for The Sunday Telegraph.
- Many are calling for a public vote on the final deal proposal
- Britain faces an October deadline for finalising a Brexit deal
- Former Brexit Secretary David Davis slammed Ms May’s comments
Writing in the popular Sunday newspaper, the British Prime Minister said she would not be pushed into compromises over Brexit that weren’t in the national interest, seeking to allay fears among some in her Conservative Party that she would cave in to Brussels’ demands in negotiations.
“The coming months will be critical in shaping the future of our country and I am clear about my mission,” Ms May wrote.
“We want to leave with a good deal and we are confident we can reach one.”
With less than two months before Britain and the European Union want to agree a deal to end over 40 years of union, Ms May is struggling to sell what she calls her business-friendly Brexit to her own party and across a divided country.
As the October deadline for a Brexit deal looms, many opponents of the UK leaving the European Union have agitated for a second vote.
Others are calling for a public vote on the final Brexit deal before it’s signed, but Ms May insisted against the need for any further public vote on Sunday.
“In the summer of 2016, millions came out to have their say,” she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.
“In many cases for the first time in decades, they trusted that their vote would count; that after years of feeling ignored by politics, their voices would be heard.
“To ask the question all over again would be a gross betrayal of our democracy — and a betrayal of that trust.”
Polls suggest more Britons now want to stay in the EU than want to leave. (Reuters: Yves Herman)
After an initially sceptical reaction, the EU is formulating its response to what has become known as the Chequers plan, which is designed to protect cross-border trade.
Boxed in between those at home who would balk at further concession and an EU negotiator demanding more concession, difficult talks lie ahead, followed by a vote in parliament on whatever deal is reached.
“I will not be pushed into accepting compromises on the Chequers proposals that are not in our national interest,” Ms May wrote.
But her words drew scepticism, including from the former Brexit negotiator David Davis who said the pledge was little reassurance and that he would vote against parliament giving Ms May’s exit plan its required approval.
Mr Davis, who recently resigned in protest over the Chequers plan after two years as Ms May’s chief negotiator, said the proposal was “almost worse than being in” the EU, and that Ms May could use ‘national interest’ as a caveat to justify further concessions.
“You’re not going to turn around to parliament and say ‘Oh, I agreed this, but that wasn’t in the national interest’ are you?” he told the BBC.
Trade minister Liam Fox, who also campaigned for Brexit but still supports Ms May, said it was now up to the EU to respond to the British proposal, when asked whether he thought further compromises would be necessary.
“We have already set out what we think is a reasonable position for the United Kingdom to have in our future trading relationship with Europe,” Mr Fox told the BBC.
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told a German newspaper that companies will face disruption to their supply chains if Britain leaves the EU without securing continued access to the bloc’s single market or a customs union.
“Should the British Government decide in favour of a customs union with us, which is still possible, things would be much easier,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper in an interview.
“In any case I advise industry to make their supply chains Brexit-proof,” he said.
Asked about a possible extension of the negotiations beyond an informal October deadline, Mr Barnier said:
“We don’t need more time. What we need are political decisions.”
In her article, Ms May reiterated that Britain would be ready to leave the EU without a deal if the two sides could not agree on the divorce terms.
The UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 next year.
British Parliament returns from its summer break on Tuesday, with finalising the Brexit deal the key focus of business.