Number 10 pours cold water on Philip Hammond's suggestion second referendum could break Brexit deadlock

Posted On: 
4th April 2019

Downing Street has pushed back at Philip Hammond's suggestion that a second referendum could break Britain's Brexit deadlock.

The Chancellor favourably contrasted plans for a public vote with those that are 'not deliverable'.

The Chancellor told ITV's Peston programme on Wednesday night that those calling for a vote on any EU deal that passes the House of Commons were pushing "a perfectly credible proposition" that "deserves to be tested in Parliament".

He said: "Some ideas have been put forward which are not deliverable, they are not negotiable.

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"But the confirmatory referendum idea, many people will disagree with it, I’m not sure there is a majority in Parliament for it but it’s a perfectly credible proposition and it deserves to be tested in Parliament."

But Number 10 poured cold water on that suggestion on Thursday, highlighting the fact that MPs have previously voted against a fresh public vote in two rounds of so-called indicative votes.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "I read the Chancellor's comments as saying 'a credible proposition to be looked at by Parliament'.

"I'd point out Parliament has looked at this on a number of occasions and has rejected it.

"But the Prime Minister is approaching these talks in a constructive manner."

The intervention from Mr Hammond follows similar remarks in recent weeks, and comes amid reports that he has been pushing Mrs May not to rule out going back to the people.

His latest comments were seized on by those fighting for a second referendum.

Labour's Ian Murray, speaking on behalf of the Best for Britain campaign, said: "At least someone in the Government has their head screwed on.

“The sands of public opinion have shifted over the last three years, with most people now backing staying in the EU rather than relegating ourselves to a worse deal."

The row came as Labour and Number 10 continued to hold talks on a way through the UK’s Brexit impasse.

Jeremy Corbyn is also coming under pressure to push for another referendum on any EU deal backed by the Commons - although PoliticsHome has learned that Ian Lavery, Labour's chairman, told the leader the party "could be finished" if he backs a second public vote.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable on Thursday wrote to the Labour leader urging him to "stop sitting on the fence about a People’s Vote" during talks with the Government.

"Millions of people - mostly Labour Party supporters - are expecting that you will instead honour the spirit of your conference policy, by demanding that any Brexit deal is put to a public vote," he said.