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Use European elections as second Brexit vote, ex-MLA Morrice urges

Former Women's Coalition politician Jane Morrice
Former Women's Coalition politician Jane Morrice
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Brexit should be delayed until after the European elections to "test the real will of the people", a prominent member of the former Women's Coalition has said.

Describing herself as a "devoted European", Jane Morrice is part of a consultative body to the EU and a former deputy Speaker of the Stormont Assembly.

Ms Morrice has now suggested the European Parliamentary elections on May 24 could be used as a de facto second referendum on leaving the bloc.

At present the UK is due to trigger Article 50 and leave the EU on March 29, meaning British citizens will not be able to vote.

But in an open letter Ms Morrice, who is also a former head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, said the Prime Minister could use the election as "the final test of the 'real will of the people' in the UK".

This would require Parliament postponing Brexit until after the election, which would be regarded in the UK as "a legitimate combination of a general election and a referendum" on EU membership.

In her letter, Ms Morrice said the steps were needed to avoid a constitutional crisis in the UK which could lead to "turmoil in years to come".

She added: "The warning sounds, the clock is ticking, the UK has just 90 days before it could crash out of the EU after 45 years membership and just 14 days for Parliament to decide our destiny".

The former MLA and BBC reporter added that the alternatives being presented to the public could create "serious friction". These include accepting Theresa May's deal, a no-deal Brexit, another general election, or a second referendum.

Ms Morrice said no-deal would be the "worst case scenario", while Mrs May's deal lacks support in Parliament, an election would be inconclusive, and a second referendum would divide the public even further.

In practice, she said UK candidates in the European election would need to declare if they were pro or anti-Brexit.

If the overwhelming majority (60%) elected were pro-Brexit, Article 50 would be delayed for six months while negotiations were finalised. But if most elected were anti-Brexit, she suggests Article 50 would be revoked and the UK would remain a member of the EU.

An inconclusive result between 40-60% would commit the Government to a "preferendum" on the UK/EU relationship at a later date.

This would offer choices of remaining in the EU or postponing Brexit until after a People's Vote.

The second option would allow for the UK to have temporary representation in the EU, during which reforms of the existing structures could be considered.

The preferendum would then take place against a backdrop of potential reform of the EU.

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