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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

UK PM rejects campaign for new Brexit vote

Theresa May claims real progress has been made as critics line up against her

Theresa May last month in Kenya during an African tour to prepare for Britain's exit from the EU. Reuters  
Theresa May last month in Kenya during an African tour to prepare for Britain's exit from the EU. Reuters  

The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, said a second Brexit referendum would be a “gross betrayal” of democracy as her plans for leaving the European Union came under attack from all sides of her party.

With lawmakers preparing to return to Parliament this week after their summer break, the prime minister claimed that real progress had been made in negotiations with the European Union despite continuing infighting within senior ranks of her party.

Mrs May’s blueprint for negotiations – laid out in July during a meeting of her senior government colleagues at the prime ministerial country residence, Chequers – would see the UK agree common rules with the EU to maintain close trading links.

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Disagreements over that decision led to the resignations of her Brexit chief, David Davis, and foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who have continued to speak out against the plan. She also faces pressure from pro-EU lawmakers and a group, the People’s Vote, which is calling for a march in October to demand a second referendum on exiting the EU.

The campaign says a second vote would be based on the outcome of the stuttering talks between the UK and the EU, with the growing prospect that no deal would be reached before the deadline of March 29 next year. That would mean a hard break between the two sides that most economists and trade experts say would deliver a major financial shock to both the UK and the European Union.

“I will not be pushed into accepting compromises on the Chequers proposals that are not in our national interest,” Mrs May said in an article for The Sunday Telegraph.

“Neither will I give in to those who want to re-open the whole question with a second referendum ... To ask the question all over again would be a gross betrayal of our democracy.”

The Chequers agreement could be scuppered even without her rebellious lawmakers, with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying he was strongly opposed to key parts of Mrs May's proposals.

But within her party, Mr Davis told the BBC on Sunday said that he would vote against Mrs May's plan in any parliamentary vote, saying the Chequers deal would be “almost worse” than staying in the EU.

Chuka Umunna, an opposition lawmaker and leading player in the People’s Vote campaign, described the government’s strategy as a shambles and that the mood in the country had shifted towards a second vote on any Brexit deal.

“It is a betrayal of democracy for the PM to force a bad deal – or no deal – on Britain without giving the public the chance to have a final say,” he said on Twitter.

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