| 9.1°C Belfast

MEPs warned against any attempt to bounce UK into second Brexit vote


Labour MP Hilary Benn on College Green, London.

Labour MP Hilary Benn on College Green, London.

Labour MP Hilary Benn on College Green, London.

Any attempt by the European Parliament to bounce the UK into a second Brexit vote would backfire, prominent Remain and Leave supporters have warned.

Former Labour shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn and ex-justice secretary Michael Gove joined forces to urge MEPs not to try to link their ratification of any withdrawal deal to a new referendum in the UK.

The prospect was raised during a special debate hosted by Commons Speaker John Bercow at his residence in the Palace of Westminster.

Mr Bercow, who drew fire from some pro-Brexit MPs after telling students earlier this month that he voted Remain, said that "ugly sentiments" had been exposed by the referendum campaign.

Asked about speculation that the European Parliament may seek to refuse to sign off any Brexit deal unless its contents are put to UK voters, pro-Remain Mr Benn, who chairs the Commons Brexit Committee, said: "My own view is that it would be most unwise of the European Parliament to seek to attach such a condition.

"I don't see any evidence at all that the British people, I'm sorry to say, have changed their mind."

Mr Gove said: "It may well be that there is a current within the European Parliament that would like to see a second referendum in this country, but I am not necessarily convinced that it would be a position that would command a majority.

"Talk of a second referendum invites, almost, a bad deal.

"It invites the European Union's negotiators to give us something that would automatically be thought of as substandard and which would be likely to trigger unhappiness in a second referendum.

"It would be counter-productive from every point of view."

Referring to a questioner who raised fears that division had been unleashed by Brexit, the Speaker said: "And it is a concern, and has been widely articulated by people of a range of different points of view that during, and more particularly, in the aftermath of the referendum campaign, some very ugly sentiments were expressed, and doubtless that still continues.

"Such sentiments have, I think, consistently and uniformly been disavowed in terms unmistakable by my Parliamentary colleagues across the House."

Mr Benn said that some Leave supporters had not voted on the basis of facts, or the EU, but on the state of their own lives.

"And it was in these circumstances that concerns about immigration and change, the loss of what had been familiar, a wish not to be told by others what to do, stagnant wages, economic inequality, austerity, globalisation, a sense of powerlessness, a loss of identity, and a belief that somehow our country had given up that which had made it great - all these things led 52% of those who came out to vote on that Thursday to send us a message using the power of the ballot box.

"It wasn't so much about facts or even just about the EU.

"It was about the state of their lives and our politics, as experience, emotion and identity found a way of expressing themselves."

Mr Gove said: " There are some people who look bleakly, pessimistically , at this decision, and who can imagine that no good can come of it.

"And there are others who are blithely optimistic , and sometimes do take that decision that was given to us in June last year as though it were the final word, and everything from now on will be happiness and milk and honey.

"The truth, of course, is that there are significant opportunities available to Britain as a result of our decision to leave the European Union."