British PM rejects call for second referendum on Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May has previously ruled out a rerun of the 2016 vote in which Britons voted 52-48 per cent to leave the bloc.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has previously ruled out a rerun of the 2016 vote in which Britons voted 52-48 per cent to leave the bloc.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • There will be no second referendum on Brexit, a spokesman for Mrs Theresa May said yesterday, repeating the British Prime Minister's belief that her plan for leaving the EU was the only way to get a deal that meets the government's aims.

"The British public have voted to leave the European Union. There is not going to be a second referendum... under any circumstances," the spokesman told reporters.

The comments came after a former senior British minister called earlier yesterday for another referendum to solve a parliamentary stalemate on Brexit, saying Mrs May's proposals for new ties with the EU were a fudge that satisfied no one.

Former education secretary Justine Greening, who quit the government in January, said Mrs May's negotiating strategy would neither please those who wanted a clean break with the EU nor those who opposed Brexit altogether.

"We'll be dragging Remain voters out of the EU for a deal that means still complying with many EU rules, but now with no say on shaping them," Ms Greening wrote in The Times newspaper. "It's not what they want, and on top of that when they hear that Leave voters are unhappy, they ask, 'What's the point?' For Leavers, this deal simply does not deliver the proper break from the European Union that they wanted."

Mrs May has previously ruled out a rerun of the 2016 vote in which Britons voted 52-48 per cent to leave the bloc.

Her Brexit negotiating strategy, which aims for a close relationship with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc in March next year, was only agreed with her Cabinet earlier this month after two years of wrangling. Two senior ministers resigned in protest shortly afterwards.

 
 
 

The threat to her position from the Brexiters was expected to become clear yesterday when lawmakers put forward a series of proposals to toughen up the government's customs legislation during a parliamentary debate.

Mrs May is not expected to be defeated on the amendments, and could even order her government to back some of the least controversial ones to neutralise the impact of the rebellion without watering down her exit plan. But, if she chooses to fight and then sees a large number of her own party rebel, it would cast fresh doubt on whether she can deliver her Brexit plan. Mrs May on Sunday attempted to face down rebels by warning that if they sink her premiership then they risk squandering the victory of an EU exit.

A ministerial aide yesterday became the ninth party member to resign in protest over Mrs May's plan. Lawmaker Scott Mann said the plan would put him in conflict with his constituents by delivering a "watered-down" Brexit.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'British PM rejects call for second referendum on Brexit'. Print Edition | Subscribe