EU leaders 'unanimously' want a second Brexit referendum, says Maltese PM
European leaders are "unanimous" in wanting a second Brexit referendum, Malta's prime minister has claimed - as Theresa May insisted a fresh vote would never take place.
Mrs May is in Salzburg for crunch talks with the leaders of the 27 other EU member states, and last night tried to dampen hopes that UK voters might reconsider their 2016 backing for Brexit.
She told them over dinner: "I know that for many of you Brexit is not something you want - but it is important to be clear there will be no second referendum."
But, speaking to the BBC's Today Programme, Maltese premier Joseph Muscat said EU leaders were near-united in wanting Mrs May to hold a new public vote.
"My experience so far within the context of the European Council is that irrespective of one’s political allegiances, there is a lot of respect [for the UK’s decision].
"Having said that there is a unanimous or almost unanimous point of view around the table that we would like the almost impossible to happen that the UK has another referendum."
The Maltese PM added: "I think most of us would welcome a situation where there is the possibility of the British people putting things into perspective, seeing what has been negotiated, seeing the options and then deciding once and for all."
That view was backed by Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš, who said he believed a second referendum could help "solve the problem" of Brexit.
He told the BBC: "I'm very unhappy that UK is leaving so it might be better maybe to make another referendum and maybe the people could change their view."
Anti-Brexit campaigners seized on the latest backing for a second vote, with Best for Britain chief executive Eloise Todd saying: "There is still time for the UK to check with the people if Brexit is what they still want.
"Even EU leaders are now saying they would accommodate that if we wanted."
The fresh interventions from the two EU leaders came as a long-standing ally of Mrs May broke cover to brand her controversial Chequers plan "dead as a dodo".
Mike Penning, a former Home Office minister who helped run Theresa May's 2016 leadership campaign, accused the Prime Minister of a "massive insult" by asking Tory MPs to back it.
He said: "To say to the likes of myself: 'It’s Chequers or a hard Brexit'. It’s like making us sit on the naughty step at school."