Theresa May rules out second Brexit referendum
Theresa May is unimpressed with the intervention of Tony Blair. (Reuters: Eddie Keogh/Stefan Rousseau)
British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to state her opposition to a second Brexit referendum, and will tell Parliament such a vote would “break faith” with the British people and do “irreparable damage” to politics.
- Theresa May says a second referendum would show democracy had not delivered
- Tony Blair calls for a second vote
- Mrs May says Mr Blair is trying to “undermine” her efforts
With Mrs May facing a deadlock in Parliament over her deal to leave the European Union and the bloc offering little in the way of concessions to win MPs over, more politicians are calling for a second referendum to break the impasse.
But Mrs 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.
“Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum,” Mrs May will tell MPs, 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.”
Supporters of Mrs May also played down suggestions a second referendum could be in the works.
“Suppose we had another referendum. Supposing the ‘remain’ side won it by 52 to 48, but it was on a lower turnout — entirely possible,” International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC.
“If there is another referendum, which I don’t think there will be, people like me will be immediately demanding it’s best of three. Where does that end up?”
Education Secretary Damian Hinds also said a second vote was not the answer.
“A second referendum might postpone the deadlock but then it would extend the deadlock and we could have the whole thing all over again.”
Mrs 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 Mrs May, they warned the British Prime Minister she could not renegotiate the deal, agreed on earlier this year.
Blair accused of ‘undermining’ PM
Underscoring the acrimony in the UK over Brexit, Mrs May and former prime minister Tony Blair of the Labour Party traded jibes in the media.
Mrs May accused Mr Blair of “undermining” her efforts to deliver Brexit by calling for a second referendum.
Mrs May said his comments were “an insult to the office he once held”.
Mr Blair shot back, saying he had a right to comment on “the most important decision our country has taken since the end of World War II”.
“What is irresponsible, however, is to try to steamroller MPs into accepting a deal they genuinely think is a bad one with the threat that if they do not fall into line, the Government will have the country crash out without a deal,” Mr Blair said.
Theresa May has been trying to gain concessions on the Brexit deal from EU leaders. (AP: Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
The British Parliament was supposed to vote on Mrs May’s Brexit plan last week, but she postponed it after it became clear that MPs would decisively reject it.
Politicians were outraged at not having a chance to have their say.
Mrs May’s own Conservative Party triggered a confidence vote in her party leadership, which she won, but a third of her party revolted against her.