UK minister suggests second Brexit referendum

By Peter Dominiczak, Matthew Holehouse, Peter Foster

Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, addresses the House of Commons in London. Photo / AP
Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, addresses the House of Commons in London. Photo / AP

Britain should have a second referendum on the terms of leaving the European Union if it can secure a deal to control its borders, a Cabinet minister says.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, becomes the first minister to suggest Britain could hold another vote on Brexit, despite the Leave victory last week.

He says the new prime minister must be allowed to "negotiate a deal" with Brussels and "put it to the British people" either by calling a general election or having another referendum.

Britain must remain in the single market and needs to reach a "sensible compromise" with the EU over freedom of movement rules to allow the UK to control migration, he insists.

Hunt says: "We must not invoke Article 50 straight away because that puts a time limit of two years on negotiations, after which we could be thrown out with no deal at all.

"So before setting the clock ticking we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election."

Poland yesterday said that Britain should have a second referendum, in stark contrast to other EU countries' calls for the UK to begin the process of leaving immediately.

The Czech Republic called for Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, to step down over his failure to keep Britain in the EU. Polish and Austrian politicians added their voices to the calls.

Tonight NZT, David Cameron will attend a European Council meeting in Brussels - the first time he will have seen European leaders since the vote - amid signs of a growing split in Europe over how to handle Brexit.

Speaking in Parliament, Cameron suggested a second referendum is possible but that it will be a decision for the next prime minister. He said there is a "very strong case" for remaining in the single market, something which EU leaders say is impossible without accepting unlimited numbers of migrants from the Continent.

Both Hunt and Cameron insist that the result of the referendum must be accepted and that Britain will leave. However, their comments risk angering Eurosceptics who believe that ending freedom of movement rules is a "red line" and may accuse them of ignoring the vote to Leave the EU.

He says: "The people have spoken - and Parliament must listen. Britain must and will leave the EU. But we did not vote on the terms of our departure." He says the vote shows "the country has rejected the free movement of people as it currently operates".

He adds: "So our plan must be to encourage them to reform those rules, thereby opening up a space for a 'Norway-plus' option for us - full access to the single market with a sensible compromise on free-movement rules.

"As their biggest non-EU trading partner, it is in the European interest to do this deal with them as much as it is in our interests to secure it."

He says by negotiating an exit deal and putting it to the British people in a vote, it will "concentrate minds across the Channel: if they want to conclude this amicably and quickly, which is in their interests as much as ours, they need to put a 'Norway-plus' deal on the table".

However, the EU was yesterday deeply divided over its response to the referendum result.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland's ruling party, said his country wants Britain to hold a second referendum on EU membership. "Our idea for today... foresees efforts aimed at making Britain return, including a second referendum," he said.

There was a growing eastern European backlash against Jean-Claude Juncker, whose constant calls for "more Europe" are being blamed in some quarters for driving the UK to the exit.

European diplomats said that Britain has no chance of getting access to the single market unless it accepts free movement. A Norway-style deal that grants UK access to the single market could only come with unlimited EU migration as a condition.

Addressing MPs in the Commons for the first time after announcing his resignation, Cameron warned that pro-EU MPs and ministers must not attempt to block a Brexit. He said the Government will "deliver the country's will to exit the European Union, although the key decisions for that will be taken by the next Prime Minister". Cameron said ministers must "accept the result" the British people had given and "get on and deliver it".

However, when asked whether it is important for Britain to remain in the single market, he said: "There is obviously a very strong case for trying to remain in that single market in some form but that's going to be a decision for the new government and for the Parliament."

Cameron was later asked by David Lammy, a Labour MP, whether there could be a "second referendum on the detail" of Britain's exit.

He replied "we have to set out the options for the model of leaving - the next government will make those decisions".

- Daily Telegraph UK

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