Boris: public would feel ‘betrayed’ by second vote
Repeating referendum risks reopening old divisions, former foreign secretary warns
A SECOND Brexit referendum would provoke “instant, deep and ineradicable feelings of betrayal”, Boris Johnson warns today, as two of the Prime Minister’s most senior allies were accused of secretly preparing for a new vote.
Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff, allegedly said a second referendum was “the only way forward”, while David Lidington, her de facto deputy, was accused of trying to build a “crossparty coalition” for a new vote.
Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph,
Mr Johnson suggests they must be “out of their minds”, as he warns the public would be “utterly infuriated” if Britain were to be put through the “misery and expense” of another referendum.
Mr Johnson describes the idea that the Government would put a second referendum to the public as “sickening”, and adds: “They would know immediately that they were being asked to vote again simply because they had failed to give the ‘right’ answer last time. They would suspect, with good grounds, that it was all a gigantic plot, engineered by politicians, to overturn their verdict. A second referendum would provoke instant, deep and ineradicable feelings of betrayal.”
Mrs May will warn today that a second referendum would break faith with the British people and “do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics” as she appears in the Commons after a disastrous Brussels summit last week.
Remainers in the Cabinet have been emboldened by her failure to secure any concessions from Brussels over the Irish border backstop, which could tie the UK to the customs union “indefi- nitely” if a deal cannot be reached. A group of five Cabinet ministers – Amber Rudd, Mr Lidington, David Gauke, Philip Hammond and Greg Clark – is understood to be leaning toward a second referendum in the event Mrs May’s deal is rejected. However, 11 other Cabinet ministers back a “managed no deal”, including Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Gavin Williamson.
Remainers insist a no-deal Brexit is “off the table” and Mr Gauke and Mr Lidington have indicated they could quit Cabinet if no deal prevails.
The Telegraph also learnt that Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, allegedly told Cabinet ministers that Mrs May must be removed after Brexit so others could renegotiate the deal, a claim denied by a spokesman for Mr Cox.
Mr Johnson writes that he is encouraged some ministers are backing a managed no deal. “As for this babble about another referendum, it undermines our negotiating credibility further. Why should the EU change the backstop if they think we are already planning a second ‘People’s Vote’ – a vote that treats the people with contempt?”
Mr Barwell insisted he did not want a second referendum as it would divide the country, while Mr Lidington said while he once regretted Brexit, he had since come to terms with it. A source close to Mr Lidington denied he had spoken in favour of a “People’s Vote” during meetings with Labour MPS.
Mrs May will tell the Commons today: “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 our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.”
THE Attorney General allegedly told Cabinet ministers Theresa May must be “removed” from office after Brexit so others can “take over” and renegotiate her deal, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
During a conference call with Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Michael Gove, Geoffrey Cox is said to have told ministers that they should “swallow” the Prime Minister’s deal for now.
Three sources told The Telegraph he then allegedly suggested during the weekend call that the Prime Minister “would need to be removed for quarter one [April of next year] so we can take over the next stage”.
It was claimed Mr Cox has made the comments on more than one occasion.
A source close to Mr Cox yesterday denied “entirely” that he had made the comments.
It comes as the Prime Minister is fighting for her political life after being forced to pull a Commons vote on her Brexit deal and returning emptyhanded after a trip to Brussels.
Mr Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday became the first Cabinet minister to admit publicly he would like a “crack” at the Tory leadership. Mr Javid, the Home Secretary, and Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the Commons, are also said to be positioning themselves in the race to succeed Mrs May.
David Davis and Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretaries, are also said to be weighing up leadership bids along with Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary.
Mr Cox is said to have made the comments during a conference call on Sunday, Nov 11, days before the pivotal Cabinet meeting at which ministers signed off the Brexit deal, leading to the resignation as Brexit secretary of Mr Raab, who was also on the call, and Esther Mcvey, who was the work and pensions secretary. One source told The Telegraph Mr Cox argued that failing to back the deal now would provoke a “constitutional crisis” but that it could be “reset” in the second part of negotiations.
Another source said he went on to use a football analogy: “We lose the first half but live to fight the second if we replace the coach.”
Other ministers were said to be “surprised” by Mr Cox’s comments, and argued “what we decide in the first half will dictate how we go in the second”. They warned that the customs backstop, which will tie the UK to the customs union in the event a deal cannot be reached, will “screw” the UK.
The source said Mr Cox has made the suggestion that Mrs May should be removed after Brexit on more than one occasion. A third source confirmed the
‘The Prime Minister will need to be removed for quarter one [April of next year] so we can take over’
accounts provided to The Telegraph. During the call Mr Hunt is said to have warned that the deal would not get through Parliament and the Prime Minister had to “fight for something better”.
Mr Gove replied that the Prime Minister “won’t listen”, while Mr Javid is said to have insisted that the Cabinet “wouldn’t accept a backstop we couldn’t get out of ”.
Mr Cox, a Eurosceptic, rose to prominence after delivering an impassioned warm-up speech for the Prime Minister at the Conservative Party conference. His was at the centre of a furious row after the Government was forced by Parliament to publish his legal advice on Mrs May’s Brexit deal.
A spokesman for Mr Cox said: “The Attorney General firmly denies any suggestion that he called for the PM to be removed. This is completely untrue.”