Friday, June 21

PM’s referendum plan if talks fail



British Prime Minister Theresa May has carried out “scenario planning” for a second Brexit referendum in case she is forced by parliament to hold one, according to UK media reports.

Mrs May is hoping to find a way to get parliament to approve a Brexit plan without another public vote, but talks with the opposition Labour Party on a compromise exit strategy have yet to reach an agreement.

The ‘Daily Telegraph’ reported Mrs May had discussions with officials and ministers about holding a referendum that would give voters the choice between leaving the European Union with a deal, leaving without a deal, or not leaving at all.

The report cited unnamed government sources, who said the referendum plan would only become relevant if talks with Labour failed and a majority in parliament supported holding another public vote.

The newspaper said a source in Mrs May’s office denied there had been a meeting to discuss a second EU referendum.

Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the EU, which was split 52pc for Brexit and 48pc against, has continued to divide the country and paralyse the political system.

Mrs May’s minority government missed a March 29 exit date and there is huge uncertainty over how, when, and even if Britain will leave.

She has publicly opposed holding a second referendum and has said if talks with Labour fail, parliament will be asked to vote on a series of options on how to break the impasse. However, those options have not yet been decided.

Talks with Labour, which has pledged conditional support for a second referendum, are due to resume today and ministers have spent recent days talking up the prospect of a swift deal.

However, leaked details on a possible compromise have angered Labour’s negotiators, and politicians from both sides have expressed their opposition to a cross-party deal.

Ministers have urged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to do a deal with the Conservative government to break the deadlock.

Reports over the weekend suggested Mrs May was poised to propose a temporary customs arrangement with the European Union.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the prime minister of jeopardising the talks, claiming she had “blown the confidentiality” of the discussions.

He said he no longer trusts Mrs May, following reports in the ‘Sunday Times’ she was prepared to give ground in three areas: customs, goods alignment and workers’ rights.

Meanwhile, Rory Stewart, the newly appointed international development secretary, warned the Tories could lose four million voters if the party takes a harder line on Brexit and tries to “outdo” Nigel Farage.

He said Labour and the Conservatives’ positions were a “quarter of an inch apart”, telling Sky News’ ‘Sophy Ridge of Sunday’: “I think a deal can be done, a lot of this rests on whether Jeremy Corbyn really wants to deliver a Brexit deal. But I think if he wants to do it, it will be actually surprisingly easy to do because our positions are very, very close.”

And Mrs May wrote in the ‘Mail on Sunday’: “To the leader of the opposition, I say this: let’s listen to what the voters said in the elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal.”

Elsewhere, a poll by political blog Conservative Home found 82pc of respondents want Mrs May to stand down as party leader and to call a leadership election.

Mr Stewart, who also confirmed he would be a candidate to be the next prime minister when Mrs May stands down, said: “Most Brexit voters voted for the Conservative Party but four million Remain voters voted for the Conservative Party.

If the Conservative Party were to make the mistake of trying to outdo Nigel Farage, which I’m sure we won’t but it is something that a few of my colleagues are talking about, then we would lose those four million voters.”