DON’T DARE STEAL OUR BREXIT ‘Let us not break faith with British people’ warns May as she fights to stop new EU vote
THERESA May is to warn a second referendum would plunge the country into fresh division after senior Tories accused her allies of plotting to betray voters.
The Prime Minister will try to reassure furious MPs that she will not sanction
another vote when she appears before them in the Commons – with an ally saying she was clear there would no fresh poll “on my watch”.
It came as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell and her deputy, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, faced an angry backlash over reports they were preparing for a new referendum.
Ex-ministers and prominent Brexiteers said re-running the 2016 vote was “completely bonkers” and “dangerous”.
Former Brexit minister David Jones warned staging a fresh vote would be “fatal to our democracy”.
He added: “It would be saying that a small Europhile elite knows better than the British electorate, whose sound common sense is renowned.
“The political backlash would be swift. No politician would be immune. Trust in the political class, already at a low ebb, would be destroyed.”
Brexiteer ex-Cabinet minister Priti Patel said: “A second referendum would be a betrayal of the 17.4 million people who voted leave.
“Those behind this have been against Brexit from day one, this is simply an attempt to overturn the will of the people.
“The Cabinet need to stop looking for excuses and deliver on the referendum mandate.”
Tracey Crouch, who recently quit as sports minister, said a second referendum would make MPs look “ridiculous”. She said: “We are elected to provide the solution to difficult issues. We can’t just throw our arms up and shout, ‘It’s too hard, let’s ask everyone again’.
“It will damage trust in democracy and in Parliament.”
Former education minister Robert Halfon said it would be a “complete betrayal” of the Prime Minister’s promise to respect the result of the Brexit vote and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “This will not heal the division in the country. It perpetuates division in the country.”
Brexiteer Lord Lilley said: “I think keeping to one’s word is very important and betraying your word is very dangerous. If people are going to renege on the promise they made to the British people they are playing with fire.”
He added: “Ever since Brexit happened, the elite of Eurocrats and Europhiles have been trying to reverse it and they will stop at nothing to do so.”
Leave-backing Tory MP Peter Bone said another referendum would be “completely bonkers” and “a complete betrayal of what we promised in 2016”.
He added: “It’s an establishment elite who are pushing for a second referendum. I think the British people have far more sense than Tony Blair and the others who want to steal Brexit.”
Bookmakers said another referendum was now a probability rather than a possibility because the odds of Mrs May getting her deal through Parliament had drifted again over the weekend and now stood at 5/2. William Hill said that for the first time it was now odds on – 8/11 – that another vote would be held.
Mrs May will make a Commons statement this afternoon to update MPs on her fraught negotiations in Brussels last week.
She will say: “Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.
“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. And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.”
Mr Barwell denied planning another vote but did not rule out claims in a Sunday newspaper that he told a Cabinet minister it was the “only way forward”.
He said: “Happy to confirm I am not planning a second referendum with political opponents or anyone else.”
Mr Lidington dodged accusations that he held talks with Labour MPs on Thursday over a new vote.
Instead he referred to comments he made in the Commons when he set out how a second vote was a possibility, but could be “divisive not decisive”. Former universities minister Sam Gyimah said “there are conversations happening” and they involve a “number of options”.
He said “people recognise that that deal is not going to fly through the House of Commons” so discussions were under way to ensure that when Mrs May’s deal is defeated, “Downing Street is in a position to know what to do next”.
The row erupted as Dr Fox indicated he would back a free vote on
Brexit options. He said: “I have to say, personally, I wouldn’t have a huge problem with Parliament as a whole having a say on what the options were.”
The Leave campaigner signalled he thought there could be EU movement in the new year to resolve concerns Britain could be “trapped” in the Northern Ireland backstop, designed to prevent a hard border.
“It’s very clear that the EU understand what the problem is,” he told The Andrew Marr Show.
“And it’s a question now, without unpicking the whole of the Withdrawal Agreement, can we find a mechanism of operating the backstop in a way that actually removes those anxieties?
“It is not going to be quick. It will happen some time in the new year.”
Labour is trying to force a Commons showdown before Christmas. Shadow communities minister Andrew Gwynne said it wanted an exit deal vote in the coming days.
A Commons confidence vote could follow if Mrs May’s deal was rejected, he added.
Theresa May and her husband Philip on their way to a church service in her Maidenhead constituency yesterday