Cox says second referendum WILL be considered despite May's denial
PUBLISHED: 16:28 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:34 11 April 2019
Attorney general Geoffrey Cox has signalled the government will “listen” to the option of a second referendum if it leads to a Brexit deal with Labour.
This is despite Theresa May still appearing to rule out the suggestion in answers to MPs in the House of Commons.
Speaking in the Commons, Cox said there are “no preconditions” to the ongoing discussions.
The MP for Edinburgh South West said he had touched on the issue during a recent BBC podcast, and asked him to “tell us what recent discussions the Cabinet have had about a second EU referendum”.
Cox said he could not reveal what was said around the cabinet table, but added: “What I can say is this; the discussions that are currently going forward, with the Labour Party, with the opposition, are being pursued in good faith, there are no preconditions to it.
“And of course we will listen to any suggestions that are made, whether it be about a second referendum or any other matter, to see if we can find common ground in the interest of the country to leave the European Union as swiftly as possible.”
Earlier SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford pushed May to reveal if a second referendum had been offered during compromise talks with Labour.
May replied: “The government has not offered a second referendum. Our position on that issue has not changed.”
The PM said some MPs may press their case for a second referendum when legislation to implement Brexit comes forward.
There were, however, worries about increasing social divisions which a second referendum may only make worse.
Tory former minister Damian Green said: “Contrary to many voices on opposition benches, a second referendum would not be the end of the process, it would be the start of a process and, in the current climate, it would be much more likely to lead to greater division in this country rather than the healing that we desperately need.”
May responded: “I am concerned that a second referendum would increase division in our society and increase division across this country just at the time when we do need to be bringing people together.
“We can bring people together by agreeing the way in which we can leave the European Union, getting on with it, and delivering for people on their vote.”
Labour former minister Hilary Benn added his voice to those calling for a second referendum.
Benn, chairman of the Exiting the EU Committee, said: “We may now have more time, but our businesses face more uncertainties.
“So, may I encourage her, during the Easter recess, to take her own advice and to reflect on the decisions that need to be made, and to decide to put her deal to the British people so they can decide whether they still wish to leave now that we know the actual choices that Brexit involves, or remain, so we can finally bring this crisis facing our country to a conclusion.”
May replied: “Neither I or the government have changed our view on the need for this House, this parliament to deliver on the result of the first referendum.”
She added: “It is for this House to determine whether we are going to deliver Brexit for the British people. We have that opportunity.”