Anger over claims Theresa May allies are war-gaming second Brexit referendum

Posted On: 
16th December 2018

Top allies of Theresa May are war-gaming for a second Brexit referendum in case MPs refuse to back her deal with Brussels, it has been reported.

Gavin Barwell and David Lidington are said to be sounding out other political figures
PA Images

De-facto deputy Prime Minister David Lidington has been talking to Labour MPs about how the Government could win their support for going back to the country on Brexit, a number of papers report.

Meanwhile, No 10 chief of staff Gavin Barwell is said to have told a Cabinet minister that a second referendum is the “only way forward”.

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But the claims have sparked anger from MPs who fear a new public vote is a bid to stop Brexit in its tracks.

Mrs May was forced to pull a crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal earlier this month in the face of certain defeat, while EU leaders at the European Council summit this week said negotiations could not be reopened.

The Prime Minister is hoping that the 27 member states can be talked into further concessions on the hated Northern Ireland backstop plan - but there is little chance of a breakthrough that can win the support of MPs.

According to the Sunday Times, Cabinet Office officials working for First Secretary of State Mr Lidington are mulling plans for a referendum on the PM’s deal or no-deal.

They assume MPs will force the Government to add Remain to the ballot paper. Meanwhile, top figures have sought legal advice on how to rescind the two-year Article 50 process, the paper adds.

Mrs May sought to kill off any speculation about a second referendum last night by saying people calling for one such as former PM Tony Blair were trying to “subvert the process for their own political interests”.


But one Cabinet minister told the Sunday Times colleagues “would have to be out of their tiny minds to go along with this,” while ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said a fresh vote would see “all hell break loose”.

“Lidington is one of the guilty men in this process," he told the same paper.

"What he and others have been doing is giving the EU what they want, which is no way out for the UK. They should stop messing around with games about referendums."

Tory MP Robert Halfon meanwhile tweeted that backing a second vote would be a "complete betrayal" of promises by the Prime Minister to respect the 2016 vote.

Former minister Tracey Crouch added: "It also makes us MPs look ridiculous. We are elected to provide the solution to difficult issues.

"We can't just throw our arms up and shout it's too hard, let's ask everyone again. It will damage trust in democracy & in Parliament."