Boris: pub­lic would feel ‘be­trayed’ by sec­ond vote

Re­peat­ing ref­er­en­dum risks re­open­ing old di­vi­sions, for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary warns

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Steven Swin­ford and Jack Maid­ment

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.”

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