Dozens of former UK ambassadors back second EU referendum in bid to halt ‘Brexit fiasco’

Posted On: 
14th February 2019

Dozens of former UK ambassadors and high commissioners have called on Theresa May to delay Brexit and consider the “powerful argument” for a second EU referendum.

A rally in January calling for a People's Vote outside the Houses of Parliament
Credit: 
PA Images

In an open letter published by the People’s Vote campaign, 43 ex-diplomats said Britain’s exit from the bloc had “turned into a national crisis” and that the country could not forge a more beneficial relationship with the EU than it currently has.

The group added it would be "wrong" to leave with "no clarity" on the future relationship and if the Prime Minister’s deal made it through the Commons, it would mark the beginning of “year upon on year of negotiation and renegotiation”.

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“It is clear that Brexit has turned into a national crisis. There is no possible deal that will be a sensible alternative to the privileged one we have today as members of the EU with a seat at the table, inside the Single Market and Customs Union but outside the Euro and Schengen," it says.

It comes as ministers continue their push for concessions on the controversial Irish backstop - which seeks to keep an open border in the event an alternative is not hammered out - in a last-ditch bid to get the withdrawal agreement through the Commons by 29 March.

Signatories to the letter include Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the former Permanent Representative to the EU and Ambassador to the US, and Lord John Kerr, the author of Article 50 – the mechanism used to trigger the exit process for a member state.

Others include Lord David Hannay, Permanent Representative to the European Economic Community under Margaret Thatcher’s government; and Sir Christopher Mallaby, who served as both ambassador to Germany and later France.

They add: “As former diplomats who have served around the world, we have a clear understanding of what contributes to Britain’s influence in the world.

“Our advice to Theresa May today is clear: we should not leave the EU when we have no clarity about our final destination. Instead we must use the mechanisms at our disposal, above all we must seek to extend the Article 50 negotiating period...”

“There is now, in addition to extending Article 50, a powerful argument to go back to the people and ask them whether they want the negotiated Brexit deal or would prefer to stay in the European Union.

“Our country’s national interest must always be paramount. The Brexit fiasco has already weakened the UK's standing in the world. We strongly advocate a change of direction before it is too late.”