WATCH: Britain ‘could stumble into a general election’, warns John Major in swipe at ‘irreconcilable’ Tories
Britain could be heading for a general election later this year if the House of Commons continues to be deadlocked over Brexit, Sir John Major has predicted.
The former prime minister said if anti-EU MPs in his own party “remain unmovable” and opposition parties seek to take “political advantage” then Theresa May’s Brexit deal could be voted down in the Commons.
The ex-Conservative leader said an election would be “very unpleasant” if it took place following the “ugly” debate during and since the referendum. He also argued a second vote on EU membership would be “morally justifiable”.
In an outspoken interview on the Andrew Marr show, Sir John said Tory Eurosceptics have boxed the Government and the Prime Minister into a corner and could force a no deal Brexit.
He called on Mrs May and MPs to not let the “irreconcilable minority” determine what happens during the Brexit negotiations.
When asked whether the way to break the stalemate in the Commons over Brexit was through a general election, Sir John replied: “I think we could stumble into that by accident.
“If the House of Commons continues to be deadlocked, if the irreconcilables remain unmovable and the whips of the other parties decide to take political advantage of the Government’s voting weakness in the House of Commons, if they decide to do that and put party politics before the national interest, then there is a possibility of the Commons being unable to reach an agreement and a general election ultimately becoming unavoidable.
“I would hope not. It would be a very unpleasant general election if we had it.”
‘IRRECONCILABLE, HARDLINE, ANTI-EUROPEANS’
Sir John said that though he did not like what was agreed at Chequers, he recognised that it was a compromise on Brexit.
“If every compromise reached by the Cabinet is blocked by this minority of irreconcilable, hardline, utterly committed anti-Europeans, anti-Europe for all occasions, then we will not actually get to negotiations, we will fall out without a deal and it will be catastrophic, damaging for Europe, but catastrophic for us,” he said.
“Not only catastrophic for us, it is the people who have least who will end up being hurt most.”
He called on MPs in the Commons to face down Brexiteers on the Tory benches.
“The difficulty we face at the moment is that has boxed the Government and particularly the Prime Minister into a corner. They are a minority of the House of Commons – a substantial minority of the House of Commons – but they’re larger than the Government’s majority,” he said.
“That means to a substantial extent they have a much greater ability to frustrate policy than any small group really ought to have.
“The danger at the moment is that they will frustrate every move that the Government seeks to make and by accident, because nothing can be agreed, we will crash out without a deal. That has a very material effect on everyone in this country.”
He added: “The majority of the House of Commons should not let this irreconcilable minority within the Conservative party determine what happens in these negotiations.”
Sir John also renewed his calls for a second referendum, which he said had “democratic downsides” but would be “morally justifiable”.
He said a general election would be “catastrophic” and warned that a leadership contest in the Conservative party would be “absurd”.
And he said that any deal would be less good than the EU membership Britain currently enjoys.