Tory ex-chair backs second EU referendum to avoid 'miserable' Brexit

Posted On: 
7th January 2019

Tory ex-chairman Chris Patten has come out in favour of a second EU referendum in a bid to end the “miserable” Brexit process.

Lord Patten has become the latest Tory grandee to support a second Brexit referendum
Credit: 
ITV

In yet another blow to Theresa May's Brexit plans, the Tory grandee dismissed the deal she clinched with the EU, saying it should be put “out of its misery”.

He backed the more than 200 MPs who have signed a letter urging the Prime Minister to rule out quitting the bloc without an agreement in place.

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Britain will crash out with no deal by default on 29 March unless an alternative plan is reached in the coming months - but there is currently no majority for any alternative option.

Lord Patten, who has previously described referendums as “fundamentally un-democratic”, said the Article 50 process should be extended and a fresh deal with a closer EU relationship be hammered out.

"If we can’t do that by getting a majority for staying within the single market and the customs union, then I think we have no alternative than to go back to the people for another vote," he told the Today programme on Radio 4.

“Everybody knows I don’t like referendums, but I think we got into this miserable shambles because of a referendum and it may be the only way we can get out of it. So I would support that as the final stand.”

He also blasted Mrs May for using “threats” of no-deal to try to force MPs to back her plan, comparing her warnings to 1960’s cold war satire film, Dr. Strangelove.

“There used to be the Dr. Strangelove argument, that sometimes you could threaten people by doing crazy things in order to get them to back down, and that is really what is being suggested at the moment," he fumed.

"I don’t think that Mrs May actually thinks it makes any sort of sense whatsoever to go ahead without a deal.

"It would among other things mean there was no transition agreement, and it cannot be the case that this is the only deal that we can accept. It has us arguing about these issues years into the future.”

Lord Patten also blasted the so-called "managed no-deal" exit that some senior pro-Brexit figures - including Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom - have advocated.

He branded the idea "snake oil" and said he could not "believe the Prime Minister or the majority of the Cabinet think [it] is actually feasible or sensible”.

Lord Patten’s intervention comes after nine Conservative MPs, including former ministers Jo Johnson and Sam Gyimah, backed the campaign for a second public vote.

Meanwhile, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made the case for an “optimistic” no-deal Brexit, saying it was “closest to what people voted for” in the 2016 EU referendum.