A new Brexit referendum with an option to remain in the EU is “likely”, the Labour first minister of Wales has said.
Carwyn Jones told Wales’ National Assembly that people had “the right to express a view as to whether they wish to leave in circumstances that not one Brexiteer suggested would happen”.
It follows comments from shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer at Labour’s conference in Liverpool today that nobody was ruling out a second referendum with an option to Remain on the ballot paper.
In response to a question at first minister’s questions from Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Steffan Lewis whether there should “also be a question there asking the people whether or not they wish to remain in the European Union”, Jones said: “I think that’s likely.”
He told the Senedd, the Assembly’s debating chamber: “I think that there are two possibilities here, are there not? If there’s no deal, then it would be ‘no deal’ or Remain.
“If there is a deal, it becomes a bit more complicated, in the sense that it’s: ‘Do you accept the deal? But, if you don’t, what do you want: “no deal” or Remain?’ There are ways in which the Electoral Commission, I’m sure, can finesse that referendum.
“But, if there’s no deal on the table, well, surely people have the right to express a view as to whether they wish to leave in circumstances that not one Brexiteer suggested would happen. Nobody said two years ago, ‘If there’s no deal, it doesn’t matter.’
“No-one said it. Everyone said, ‘There will be a deal.’ That’s changed.”
The first minister, who is standing down later this year, said that he did not like the idea of a second referendum on exactly the same issue.
But, he said, “where the circumstances have changed fundamentally, where the promises that were made two years ago have come to nothing, then, at that point, and if there’s an inconclusive result in a general election… who knows what parties might put forward in a general election?
“There has to come a point where, if there is an impasse, the people have to decide, and they have to be allowed to decide on the basis of what they know now and not on what they were told two years ago, which hasn’t happened.”
It followed a question from Neil Hamilton, the disgraced former Tory minister who now sits as a Ukip AM in the Assembly, who said that Theresa May had “badly bungled the negotiations with Brussels”.
He added that “Jeremy Corbyn, with whom I marched through many lobbies voting against EU legislation over the years, seems to be sitting on the fence”.
Jones said there was “increasing mood music in this chamber and outside that if there is no deal and, therefore, a disaster, it’ll be the fault of the Remainers and not the fault of those who gave a pie-in-the-sky analysis two years ago of what the referendum would mean.
He said: “We were told it’d be the easiest negotiation ever. It hasn’t been. We were told that the EU would fold in the face of the UK’s demands. It hasn’t done.
“We were told that German car manufacturers would ride to the rescue – or drive to the rescue – and would force the German Government to accept a deal in favour of the UK. They haven’t done it.
“The reality is that the UK is more divided than the EU has been at all in the course of this process.”
Hamilton was, Jones said, “a member of a party who, for eight years, argued strongly for a second referendum [on the establishment of the Welsh Assembly] after 1997, because they didn’t like the result, and went into the 2005 general election on a manifesto of having a second referendum on the existence of the Assembly”.
He added: “So, there’s a certain level of double standards there that has to be recognised.”
The first minister said that if Parliament rejected any Brexit deal, or no deal, put before it he did, not see any alternative other than a general election, and “in that general election, Brexit would be the only topic, I suspect, of discussion”.