Londres, United Kingdom | AFP | Former prime minister John Major suggested Wednesday that Britons should be given the chance to vote again on Brexit, warning they were “misled” about its consequences.
He said UK lawmakers should have the option of calling a second referendum on EU membership when they vote on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal later this year.
“By 2021, after the likely two-year transition, it will be five years since the 2016 referendum,” he said in a speech in London.
“The electorate will have changed. Some voters will have left us. Many new voters will be enfranchised. Others may have changed their mind.
“No-one can truly know what ‘the will of the people’ may then be. So, let parliament decide. Or put the issue back to the people.”
Major, a former leader of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party, held office between 1990 and 1997.
His intervention comes just days before May’s keynote speech on what she wants from Britain’s future trading partnership with the EU.
She has ruled out staying in the single market or customs union, calling instead for a new bespoke deal.
But Major joined critics in Britain and Brussels in saying it was “just not credible” to suggest this would deliver similar benefits.
“We simply cannot move forward with leaving the EU, the single market, the customs union and the European Court of Justice, whilst at the same time expecting a la carte, beneficial-to-Britain, bespoke entrance to the European market,” he said.
Major campaigned against Brexit but said he also opposed Britain joining the euro single currency or the Schengen free movement area, and was “neither a europhile nor a eurosceptic”.
“But I am a realist. I believe that to risk losing our trade advantages with the colossal market on our doorstep is to inflict economic self-harm on the British people,” he said.
He accused “ultra” Brexit supporters of “deceiving themselves and, as a result, they are misleading the British people”.
“Although the referendum was advisory only, the result gave the government the obligation to negotiate a Brexit. But not any Brexit — not at all costs,” he said.
He added: “Many electors know they were misled: many more are beginning to realise it. So, the electorate has every right to reconsider their decision.”
May has repeatedly ruled out a second referendum, while the main opposition Labour party has also cautioned against such a move.