Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay warns second EU referendum would 'further divide UK'

Posted On: 
4th January 2019

A second EU referendum would "further divide" the UK by heightening the tensions which already exist across the country, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has warned.

Stephen Barclay is the third Tory to be Brexit Secretary.
Credit: 
PA Images

The senior Conservative also claimed that sanctioning another poll could "trigger a very populist reaction" across Europe.

His comments, in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, echo those of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who earlier this week said another referendum would have "devastating" consequences for voters' trust in democracy.

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But they put him at odds with Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who said last month that a second referendum could be a "plausible" way of breaking the Brexit deadlock.

Mr Barclay said: "A second referendum would cause yet more division. The current extent to which Britain is divided now would be small compared to the tensions that a second vote would cause. It would further divide our nation."

The Cabinet minister also pointed out that another referendum could not be organised before the next European Parliament elections, which are due in May.

He said: "European elections would have to take place in Britain, which means huge democratic damage, because people voted for a withdrawal but would have to nonetheless vote again at the end of May.

“Our European colleagues couldn’t have any interest in it either as that would trigger a very populist reaction."

Speaking in Singapore, Jeremy Hunt - who previously said Brits should get the chance to vote on the Brexit deal - said: "If we went back to them and asked their opinion a second time they would say, 'Well, you guys aren't listening to us. And are you going to ask us a third time or a fourth time until you get the answer you want?'

"And if that's the case, then that's not a democracy at all. So the social consequences in one of the oldest democracies in the world of not going ahead and leaving the EU on the 29th March as we've been instructed to do would be devastating."