Brexit: German government suggests UK should ‘think again’ about leaving EU with second referendum

Europe minister Michael Roth suggests Final Say referendum might be a good idea

Jon Stone
Monday 21 January 2019 15:26 GMT
The Independent hands in Final Say petition to Downing Street

Germany’s government has floated the prospect of Britain remaining in the EU, suggesting the country might want to “think about it again” with a second referendum.

The country’s Europe minister Michael Roth described Brexit as a “tragedy” worthy of Shakespeare, suggesting that it would have “pushed the limits” of the great playwright’s imagination.

“The door to the EU always remains open – perhaps think about it again,” Mr Roth told German broadcaster ARD.

Asked to clarify whether he suggesting holding a second EU referendum, he replied: “Exactly.”

Westminster is currently in deadlock over how Britain leaves the EU, with no apparent majority in parliament for a single way forward.

As many as 750,000 people marched in London late last year to demand a second referendum to give them a Final Say on leaving.

“I have often said Shakespeare could not have written any better the tragedy we are now witnessing in Britain,” Mr Roth told the broadcaster.

“I am not so sure now, because Shakespeare would have pushed up against the limits of his imagination.

“I expect firstly that the Britons say now what they want. They have in the past weeks told us what they don’t want. Now we need a clear signal. We are ready for negotiations,” he added.

The intervention follows a letter last week signed by German cultural, sporting and political figures urging the UK to stay. Signatories to that letter included Angela Merkel’s protege and frontrunner to be the country’s next chancellor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

More than 100 MEPs from practically every EU country also signed a letter, published in The Independent, suggesting the UK think again about its decision.

Despite the political chaos engulfing the UK, polls suggest there has been no major shift in voting intention – with most surveys show showing a fairly narrow Remain lead.

The prospect of how a second referendum could be delivered is another matter: with Labour saying the option is still on the table once others are exhausted, but the government set against the idea. Current surveys of MPs in the Commons suggest the arithmetic in parliament may not be favourable to one even if Labour backs it, however.

A number of practical difficulties to delivering a referendum also remain, however – such as what the question would be, and how long one would take to organise.

The Independent has been at the forefront of the campaign to give the public a Final Say on the Brexit deal.

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