May to warn against second Brexit poll

Theresa May will condemn calls for a second Brexit referendum, as Cabinet tensions on EU withdrawal continue to break into the open.

The Prime Minister will use an address to the Commons on Monday to say a new national poll would do “irreparable damage” to the integrity of British politics.

The move comes after close allies of Mrs May distanced themselves from reports that they were manoeuvring to bring about a fresh referendum.

And Solicitor General Robert Buckland became the latest senior Tory to float the idea of a free vote in the Commons on Brexit.

Mrs May will use a statement to Parliament following last week’s bruising EU summit to claim another referendum would further divide the UK.

The PM will say: “Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.

“Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.

“Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.

“And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.”

The appearance follows Mrs May’s de facto deputy, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, and the PM’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, both dismissing reports they are planning for a new referendum.

And Mrs May faces a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday following a frantic few days when key ministers have jockeyed for attention and staked  out strong Brexit positions.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain would “prosper” even if it quit the EU with no deal, while Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd argued firmly against  leaving the bloc without an agreement.

And International Trade Secretary Liam Fox indicated he could support MPs being given a free vote on Brexit options.

Prominent Brexiteers like International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt also look set to make their views known.

Asked about the prospect of a free vote in the Commons on Brexit where MPs would not be whipped, the Solicitor General told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “I think that’s certainly something that we need to look at very carefully.

“If we are going to do it, I think everybody needs to do it – cross-party.

“I think if all the parties agreed to it then it is something that might well work.

“But, I think it would be imbalanced if one party did it and the other one did not.”

Prominent Brexiteer and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson railed against the idea of a second referendum.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “A second referendum would provoke instant, deep and ineradicable feelings of betrayal.”

Mr Johnson said the idea that the Government would hold a fresh Brexit poll was “sickening”.

Labour is insisting that Mrs May puts her Brexit deal to a vote in the Commons before Parliament rises for Christmas on Thursday.

However, the party has made it clear it will not table a motion of no confidence in the Government until such a vote has been held.

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