August 19, 2019

Brexit: Where do former prime ministers stand on a second referendum?

Brexit: Where do former prime ministers stand on a second referendum?


Theresa May has accused Tony Blair of “insulting” the British people and the office of prime minister by “undermining” Brexit talks with calls for a second referendum.

The prime minister said there are “too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests” and warned a second referendum would amount to Parliament abdicating responsibility.

After Ms May’s stinging rebuke of her predecessor, here is a look at how former British prime ministers view Brexit:

David Cameron

Ms May’s old boss triggered the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU and campaigned for Remain. After losing the historic vote, Mr Cameron swiftly left Number 10, quit as an MP and has remained virtually absent from the ensuing debate over Brexit. Earlier this month, he said he did not regret calling the referendum, adding: “Obviously I’m very concerned about what’s happening today but I do support the Prime Minister in her efforts to try and have a close partnership with the European Union.”

Gordon Brown

Brexit has left the country divided and led to a breakdown of trust within the electorate, according to Mr Blair’s successor. Furthermore, allegations of betrayal risk creating a “poisonous and toxic atmosphere” that could be exploited by populists. In October, Mr Brown predicted a future referendum on Brexit will take place. He said if Britain leaves the EU without a deal in March 2019 but with, as he expects, an extended transition period retaining some aspects of membership, the next general election will be fought on Europe.

Tony Blair

The Labour heavyweight drew Ms May’s ire after saying the prime minister must stop “banging (her) head against this brick wall” and go for a second referendum. He said the country had been “held hostage” by division in the Tories, but said the issue was such that it would not make any difference if it was a Labour or Conservative government “or a divine government” running the negotiations. Mr Blair described the “disentangling” process of Brexit as “hideously complex” and said all options of leaving the EU have “significant drawbacks” compared with staying in.

Sir John Major

No stranger to the challenge posed to Tory leaders by Euroceptic MPs, Sir John has made several interventions on the issue. As a former PM all too familiar with the realities of unrest in Northern Ireland, he has called for the immediate revocation of the Article 50 withdrawal process in order to give politicians on all sides time to work through the “morass”. Sir John has also warned that Brexiteers responsible for persuading the British public to leave the European Union will never be forgiven for their “false promises”.

Press Association 


The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

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