Brexit: There is a perfectly credible case for a second EU referendum, says former PM John Major

Sir John's comments come after Tony Blair claimed Brexit could be halted 

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Indy Politics

Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister, has declared there is a “perfectly” credible case for a second EU referendum and warned that Brexit should not be dictated by the “tyranny of the majority”.

In his first intervention on the issue since the referendum in June, the former Conservative leader, who was in office between 1990 and 1997, told guests at a private dinner that the 48 per cent of people who voted to stay in the EU should not be denied a say in the trade terms of the deal.

Sir John – a prominent figure seen at David Cameron’s side during the referendum campaign – said he accepted Britain would not remain a full member but wanted the Brexit deal to allow the country to stay as close as possible to the other member states and the single market, which he dubbed “the richest market mankind has ever seen”.

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The comments, reported by the Times, came at a private dinner to mark the 100th anniversary of David Lloyd George becoming Prime Minister.

He said Parliament, rather than the Government, should decide the final terms of any new deal with the remaining members of the EU, adding there was a “perfectly credible case” for a second referendum.

“I hear the argument that the 48 per cent of people who voted to stay should have no say in what happens,” he said.

“I find that very difficult to accept. The tyranny of the majority has never applied in a democracy and it should not apply in this particular democracy.”

Sir John's time in Downing Street was marked by a series of bruising battles with own party over Europe and his comments are likely to cause fresh anger among Eurosceptic Tories

His intervention in the debate also comes after Tony Blair, his successor in Downing Street, suggested the Brexit process could be halted if the British public wished to do so. The former Labour leader told the New Statesman: “It can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain gain cost-benefit analysis doesn’t stack up.”

Mr Blair, who also ruled out a return to frontline politics, added: “But this is what I keep saying to people. This is like agreeing to a house swap without having seen the other house . . . You’ve got to understand, this has been driven essentially ideologically.”

The comments from Sir John will likely irritate Downing Street who on Thursday – when asked about Mr Blair’s comments – replied: “The PM has been very clear we are leaving the EU – that’s the decision of the British people.

"There’s not going to be any change from that position, we are taking it forward, we will trigger Article 50 and leave the EU."

But responding to Sir John's comments Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "The haphazard way May's cabinet are handling Brexit makes the case for a referendum on the deal stronger each day, and we're glad to have growing cross-party support for this campaign."