Burnham calls for People’s Vote to scupper no deal

Andy Burnham wants Brexit negotiations to be postponed
Photo: PA / Peter Byrne

Andy Burnham wants Brexit negotiations to be postponed Photo: PA / Peter Byrne - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has called for Brexit to be halted and said a People's Vote might be the answer.

Burnham wants the exit from the European Union to be postponed to stop the UK crashing out without a deal.

He now wants the negotiation period to be extended beyond the March 2019 deadline to limit the chance of a no-deal Brexit.

The former Labour cabinet minister also suggests a second referendum could be required if no agreement is reached between the UK and Brussels.

In a major speech in Westminster setting out his plan he insisted 'this isn't about frustrating Brexit' but instead about 'getting Brexit right'.

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He acknowledges that another referendum – as demanded by the People's Vote campaign – could result in further divisions in society but said it could be necessary to protect livelihoods from a no-deal Brexit.

He also called for a 'common-sense Brexit' based on 'building up' from Theresa May's Chequers plan.

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But he acknowledged disputes at Westminster meant this approach is looking 'more and more unlikely' and 'the odds on a no-deal outcome are growing every day'.

'As soon as it becomes clear that the MPs against a no-deal outcome cannot unite around a plan, I would urge all Greater Manchester MPs to support a call on the EU for an extension of Article 50 beyond the March deadline as the next way of stopping no deal,' he said.

'This isn't about frustrating Brexit. It is about getting Brexit right.

'If that fails and we are left on the cliff-edge of no deal with no other options, then and only then would I endorse the call for a people's vote on the proposed no-deal departure and encourage our MPs to do the same.

'A price would undoubtedly be paid in terms of social cohesion but it would be a necessary one to protect the damage to people's jobs, families and lives.

'I realise that this is an unfashionably-nuanced position when simplistic big positions are all the rage.'

Burnham will argue that the result of the 2016 referendum was 'as much an instruction for Westminster to review its relationship with the rest of England' as Brussels.

'If the phrase 'take back control' is to mean anything, it must mean substantial devolution of power and resources out of Westminster to all of the English regions,' he added.

A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said: 'As the prime minister has made clear, we are leaving the EU on 29 March 2019.

'We have made good progress on the Withdrawal Agreement. Most issues have been resolved, including citizens' rights and the financial settlement.

'As a result of the significant progress made in negotiations, we remain confident we will agree a mutually advantageous deal with the EU.'

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