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Philip Hammond: a second referendum “deserves to be considered”

24 March 2019

2:27 PM

24 March 2019

2:27 PM

Philip Hammond – Removing May ‘will not help’ Brexit process

The Chancellor has taken to the TV studios once ahead of what was intended to be the UK’s final week inside the European Union. He needed up commenting on reports in several of this morning’s papers that the Cabinet was preparing to oust Theresa May and install a caretaker leader to see the next phase of Brexit through. Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Hammond said the troublesome question is what, not who.

SR: Has the Prime Minister run out of road?

PH: No, I don’t think that’s the case at all. This is not about the Prime Minister or any other individual. This is about the future of our country, and changing Prime Minister wouldn’t help us. Changing [the] party in government wouldn’t help us. We’ve got to address the question of what type of… way forward Parliament can agree on.

Second referendum ‘deserves to be considered’

Hammond continued by saying that he was prepared to examine a variety of options that did not include either revoking Article 50 or leaving the EU without a deal. With hundreds of thousands of protestors taking to London’s streets on Saturday to protest in support of a second referendum, Ridge asked if they may see their wish granted:

PH: I want to see a compromise, and the essence of compromise is that nobody gets everything they want…  I’m not sure that there’s a majority in Parliament in support of a second referendum, but it’s a perfectly coherent proposition. Many people will be strongly opposed to it but… it deserves to be considered.”

A Cabinet member floating the idea of a second referendum will not please those on what Hammond recently referred to as “the Brexit wing of the party” (but when Cabinet discipline collapses it does make for more interesting Sunday interviews).

Stephen Barclay – We need to deliver on the vote in 2016

The Brexit Secretary was less keen on holding a second referendum, and told Andrew Marr that Saturday’s ‘Put it to the People’ march has not changed his view:

SB: I think what matters is the 17.4 million at the ballot box… We had a clear message to the British public by David Cameron and the government at the time… and parliamentarians themselves, many of whom promised to respect the result… are now seeking to revoke it… We do need to respect the referendum result, and that means delivering on the vote we had in 2016.

Indicative votes ‘will not be binding’

With the government’s withdrawal agreement looking unlikely to pass the House of Commons, provision is being made for a series of ‘indicative votes’ to take place next week. These votes will cover a variety of possible Brexit scenarios, and are designed to allow the government to move forward based on the consensus of the House. However, Barclay told Marr that proposals receiving majority support would not necessarily be adopted:

SB: [The indicative votes] would not be binding…

AM: …You could ignore the House of Commons on an indicative vote?

SB: Well, potentially it would collide with the manifesto. We would need to see that… Parliament [could] vote for a number of contradictory things, so we would need to untangle that. But ultimately… the risk of a general election increases, because you potentially have a situation where Parliament is instructing the executive to do something that is counter to what is was elected to do.

Keir Starmer – Labour would support referendum on May’s deal

Marr also interviewed Barclay’s shadow, Sir Keir Starmer. Sir Keir told Marr that Labour would either set down or support any amendment to the current withdrawal agreement, ensuring that it had to be put to the country before it could be ratified:

KS: If the Prime Minister’s deal – if she tries it a third time – goes through, it ought to be subject to a lock or a check which means it’s got to be confirmed by the public. And I think given the position that we’re in, that’s the least that we now would expect.

But no guarantee Labour would hold referendum itself

However, Sir Keir was not able to commit Labour to holding a second referendum if his party found itself in government and negotiated a new deal before the official exit date:

AM: Can you guarantee that there will be another referendum on a deal if Labour come into power?

KS: That’s a question for the manifesto.

AM: ‘No’, is the short answer?

KS: …We had a manifesto commitment… in 2017 setting out the sort of deal we’d negotiate. We then supplemented that with our conference policy… I would expect our manifesto to build on those commitments.

Iain Duncan Smith – Cabinet plotters should ‘shut up’ and ‘apologise’

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has defended the Prime Minister against the alleged plotters who are reportedly seeking to replace her. He took particular issue with the anonymous briefings to the press:

IDS: The way things are discussed is not like this… I think, around the country, in and outside of the Conservative party, there will be real disgust at the behaviour of some of our Cabinet ministers, who are not fit for their positions if they behave like this. They should be apologising, and they should shut up, for God’s sake.

Jon Trickett – Jeremy Corbyn was ‘campaigning in Morecambe’

Sophy Ridge asked the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett why Jeremy Corbyn did not make himself available to appear at Saturday’s march for a second referendum, which saw Labour’s Deputy Tom Watson and several other high profile Labour MPs address the crowds:

SR: Why wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn there?

JT:  He was out campaigning in Morecambe actually where the cockle pickers died… There’s great anxiety about the state of the country apart from Brexit… Jeremy is out there leading the country, discussing austerity and all the other things that matter… The job of an alternative government is to try to find a way of bringing all the sides together.


Caroline Lucas – ‘You bet I feel sorry for Mrs May’

And finally, the Green party MP Caroline Lucas has told Ridge that, despite her considerable differences, she still feels some sympathy for the Prime Minister:

CL: I’m no fan of Mrs May. I think she’s almost uniquely incompetent at the job she’s been given to do, but the problems are the contradictions within the Brexit proposal itself…

SR: Do you feel sorry for her?

CL: On a personal level, you bet I feel sorry for her. I wouldn’t be her for a lot of money.

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