Anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain today set out its road map for a People’s Vote on the final deal.
The group is calling on MPs to force a referendum on the deal secured by prime minister Theresa May, with an option on the ballot paper of keeping the UK in the European Union.
It is planning a summer campaign to build public support for a second vote.
Under their plans, the referendum would be secured by an amendment to the government’s Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill, due in the Commons in the autumn.
Launching the roadmap in Westminster, Best For Britain chief executive Eloise Todd said: “A People’s Vote will be held before the end of March 2019. We believe this is the right thing to do so that everyone’s voice can be heard.”
She rejected arguments that the 2016 result was “etched in stone” and should not be questioned, saying: “The will of the people is changing… the 48% is now over 50% and rising.”
Under the roadmap, Parliament would amend the bill in October, stating that a vote to stay in the EU would commit the government to automatically revoking Article 50.
A national conversation would then be launched in early 2019, with the vote being held before March 29, when the UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU.
The group’s chair Mark Malloch Brown acknowledged a second poll could confirm the Leave vote, and pledged that Best For Britain would respect the result whichever way it went.
He said that foreign secretary Boris Johnson was “almost certainly correct” to suggest, in taped remarks at a private dinner, that hardline Leavers were not currently on track to get the Brexit they want.
But he warned that the alternative of a “soft Brexit” would plunge the UK into a “protracted generation-long civil war” with neither side accepting the outcome unless it was endorsed by a clear public vote.
In an open letter to voters, Best For Britain warned that there was a danger of the political establishment “sleepwalking the country over the Brexit finish line” in March without any clarity over whether the deal will be good for the UK.
The group said: “After March 29 2019, our option to stay in will disappear.
“It is only right that the people get to decide whether to forfeit our current deal after having the opportunity to compare it to the Brexit deal.
“It’s simple: may the best deal win.”
The event today kicks off a summer of campaigning by the group in 70 key seats throughout the country to try and swing the Brexit debate. The drive will be led by 50,000 grassroots campaigners who will urge MPs to back the plan and take the first steps towards a final say on the Brexit deal.
Ms Todd said: “This cannot be a debate fought out solely within the walls of Westminster. We’ll be talking to people on the doorstep about how Brexit is affecting them.
‘We’ll be ensuring MPs hear the voices of the voiceless, the perspectives of the people. We will go right to the heart of Britain and the core of the debate: in Doncaster, Stoke, and Mansfield – places where the anguish of the people before 2016 has so clearly shaped the political landscape after it.”
She added: “No more top down politics. No more lies. No more excuses. This needs to be a truly grassroots effort, with fair and honest campaigns setting out the pros and cons of both future paths for our country.
“For too long we’ve been asked to swallow the lie that the votes of 17m people – with their individual histories, experiences, and ideas – gave May a clear mandate to deliver whatever Brexit she can fashion, no matter how different that is from its original conception or how damaging it might prove to be.
“But I say to everybody out there: don’t let them force-feed you such nonsense. However you voted, you deserve to know there is a deal on offer that the government is intent on burying.”
Lord Malloch-Brown denied the group were “puppets of a foreign funder” because 20% of their income this year came from Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros.
“Am I embarrassed to take George Soros’ money? No,” he said.
“Like him, I am very proud of a career spent in international human rights, promoting democracy and trying to secure healthy democratic cultures in countries everywhere. I never expected to be doing it back home, but I’m pleased to be doing so.”