Theresa May warned yesterday that a second Brexit referendum could damage social cohesion and undermine public trust in British democracy.
The Prime Minister spoke out as Jeremy Corbyn opened the door to a second poll last night.
In significant shift, the Labour leader tabled a Commons amendment that would require the Government to provide time for Parliament to legislate for ‘a public vote’ on the final Brexit deal.
If successful this could result in a second referendum later this year.
Mrs May warned MPs they had given too little thought to the damage a second poll would do to public trust.
Updating MPs on her Brexit Plan B she said: ‘There has not yet been enough recognition of the way in which a second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.’
A senior aide denied she was predicting violence, but added: ‘It is not unreasonable to think there may be bad feeling or rancour.’
Mrs May’s warning comes less than a fortnight after Transport Secretary – and Brexiteer – Chris Grayling said that blocking Brexit could ‘open the door’ to ‘extremist’ populist political forces.
He said the millions who voted to Leave the EU would feel ‘cheated’ and putting a stop to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU could end centuries of ‘moderate’ politics. He predicted a ‘less tolerant society’.
Yesterday the Prime Minister acknowledged that her approach to Brexit ‘had to change’ following the thumping Commons defeat for her plan last week.
In an olive branch to critics in Westminster and Brussels yesterday, she announced that the £65 fee for EU citizens to register for ‘settled status’ in the UK would be scrapped.
She effectively put the DUP in the driving seat in the talks with Brussels by pledging to secure concessions on the controversial Irish backstop, in the hope this will win over her Eurosceptic opponents. judi poker
And she told wavering Labour MPs she was ready to go further in protecting workers’ rights and environmental standards after Britain leaves the EU.
Mrs May also offered MPs on all sides a much greater say in the next stage of negotiations, including briefings on the state of play.
But she ruled out a change of direction. She warned MPs plotting to frustrate Brexit that they ‘cannot wish away No Deal’ – saying the only way to avoid it was to vote for a deal or scrap Brexit altogether. The warning came as:
Poland’s foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz broke ranks in the EU to suggest the backstop could be time-limited to five years – an idea quickly ruled out by Dublin;
A string of Eurosceptic MPs said they would drop their opposition to Mrs May’s deal if she can secure concessions on the Irish backstop that will guarantee the UK could not be trapped in a permanent customs union;
Mrs May warned that MPs trying to delay Brexit were simply ‘deferring the point of decision’;
Business minister Richard Harrington warned No Deal could result in car giants such as Jaguar Land Rover leaving the UK;
An internal Border Force document reportedly suggested that cross-channel freight trade could plunge by between 75 and 87 per cent if there is no deal;
Mrs May rubbished reports she was preparing to reopen the Good Friday Agreement in a last-ditch bid to resolve the Brexit backstop;
The Lords voted to block further progress on the Trade Bill until ministers provide more detail on their post-Brexit plans;
The Queen could be ‘drawn into the toxic politics of Brexit’, warned Sir Stephen Laws, a former chief legal adviser to the Government.
He said a backbench plot to grab power to delay or even thwart Brexit could result in ‘horrific constitutional consequences’ with the Queen potentially being asked by ministers to refuse Royal Assent to a law passed by Parliament.
Mr Corbyn’s amendment, which will be voted on next Tuesday, would require the Government to set aside time to debate and vote on alternative Brexit plans, including Labour’s proposal for a permanent customs union.
It states that time should also be provided for the option of ‘legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons’.
Mr Corbyn’s move is the closest he has come to backing a second referendum and reflects the pressure he is under from party members to shift to a position of trying to block Brexit.
Mrs May’s governing partners in the DUP joined forces with 118 Eurosceptic rebels last week to help sink her deal in the Commons.
Yesterday, she told the DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds she was ready to return to Brussels and ask for ‘the necessary changes to be made’ to the backstop.
She said she wanted to tackle ‘two key issues – its potential permanency, and the impact on the Union.
A number of prominent Tory Eurosceptics also suggested they could drop their wider opposition to her deal.
Sir Graham Brady, who voted against the deal last week, said he believed the PM’s plan could be salvaged if she can secure a ‘mechanism for leaving’ the Irish backstop.
Sir Graham, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, said he also believed the deal was the only plan that had a chance of getting through Parliament.