Ministers ‘ready to back second EU referendum' if Theresa May loses Commons Brexit vote

Posted On: 
9th December 2018

Three ministers are reportedly on the verge of supporting a second EU referendum if Theresa May fails to get her Brexit deal through the Commons this week.

Tobias Ellwood said the “sell-by date” on the 2016 vote to quit the European Union was about to expire
PA Images

The Prime Minister faces an uphill struggle to get her agreement signed off through the meaningful vote, with dozens of Tories and almost all opposition MPs against it.

The Sunday Times says a minister has already decided to quit and back a new referendum if the Prime Minister loses - and is one of three ready to back a fresh public vote.

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Meanwhile at least two Brexit-backing ministers and two members of the whip's office are said on the verge of resigning.

The paper quotes defence minister Tobias Ellwood as saying that the “sell-by date” on the 2016 vote to quit the European Union was about to expire, in a major hint he could back a second referendum.

The Bournemouth East MP told the paper that he would back the PM’s deal, as it was his “democratic duty” to his leave-supporting constituents.

Meanwhile The Observer reports that Cabinet ministers are deeply divided on whether to push for a new referendum.

A Cabinet source told the paper that Mrs May was "so committed to her deal" and that "a second referendum could now be the only way of getting it".

They added: "The polls have been remarkably stable for a while, but there does seem to be some kind of movement [to Remain], and that could well develop in the coming days and weeks."

Another senior Tory backing a second referendum said: "There are people in the cabinet who back a second referendum, but they are riding several horses so they don’t have to quit."

It is reported that some of the PM’s top team have been sounding out the levels of support for a so-called 'people’s vote' among MPs, while civil servants have been wargaming the format it could take.

Mrs May’s deputy, David Lidington, and the justice secretary, David Gauke, have held talks with Labour MPs to see whether there is a Commons majority for a second vote or a Norway-style deal inside the single market.

The Sunday Times reports that officials are drawing up two potential versions of a new vote, including one with was a choice between Mrs May’s deal and remaining inside the EU, and another where voters are asked whether, in the event of a leave win, should Britain take the existing deal or quit without an agreement.


The revelations come ahead of a cross-party rally in favour of a second referendum in London later today, with former deputy PM Lord Heseltine, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, Tory backbencher Anna Soubry, Labour MP Luciana Berger and the Greens Caroline Lucas among those taking part.

Lord Heseltine said ahead of the event: "No one can predict the events of next week. Every news bulletin, every headline, every leak tells us of a government that has lost control. 

"These are the first promising signs that a growing number of members of the House of Commons are prepared to assert the authority and sovereignty of that place.

"Our country’s future depends on their judgement and will.  They must act in the national interest.  

"Their conclusions must be put back to the people for their endorsement."