Brexit: John Major says revoking Article 50 is ‘the only sensible course’

Former Tory prime minister backs second referendum as Theresa May warns of ‘catastrophic breach of trust in our democracy’ if MPs vote against her deal 

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Sunday 13 January 2019 01:23
What is the Brexit meaningful vote?

Former prime minister John Major has renewed calls for the government to suspend Brexit and give the public a Final Say referendum.

Ahead of a critical Brexit vote on Tuesday, the Tory grandee said that revoking Article 50 was the “only sensible course” to avoid long-term damage to the whole country.

Sir John also argued that a second referendum would be regarded as “the definitive decision” on Brexit, as he stepped up pressure on Theresa May to consider a fresh vote.

More than 1.1m people have backed The Independent's campaign for a Final Say referendum and hundreds of thousands of people attended a rally for a referendum in London last year.

The prime minister has warned of a "catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust" in democracy if MPs reject her Brexit deal and the UK remains in the EU, as she scrambles to win support ahead of a Commons showdown on Tuesday.

Sir John told the Sunday Times that the benefits of a no-deal exit were "close to zero", adding: “Every single household – rich or poor – would be worse off for many years to come. Jumping off a cliff never has a happy ending.

“In the midst of chaos it is always sensible to pause and think. The only sensible course now is for the government to revoke article 50 and suspend any decision on departure.

“This may be politically uncomfortable but any short term political disruption pales into insignificance when compared with the potential long-term damage that could be wreaked on our country as a whole.

“The choice between ‘no deal’ or ‘bad deal’ was never one that our country should have to accept.”

Sir John became the first Conservative to call for Brexit to be scrapped in December, during a speech in Dublin the day after Ms May postponed the Commons vote on her deal.

He has also backed The Independent's campaign for a Final Say referendum on the Brexit deal.

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In his latest intervention he rejected the claim that ignoring the 2016 referendum result was a “betrayal”.

He also accused Ms May’s cabinet colleagues of turning “from supportive flatterers to would-be assassins” and suggested Jeremy Corbyn was simply playing “political games”.

“The Labour Party has had two years to propose a credible alternative,” said Sir John. “As we move into the eleventh hour it still has nothing to offer than political games.”

The prime minister has warned of a “catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust” in democracy if MPs reject her Brexit deal.

With just two days to go before the Commons vote on her withdrawal agreement, the prime minister said the UK risks crashing out of the EU without a deal – or not leaving at all.

Writing in the Sunday Express, Ms May said: “You, the British people, voted to leave. And then, in the 2017 general election, 80 per cent of you voted for MPs who stood on manifestos to respect that referendum result. You have delivered your instructions. Now it is our turn to deliver for you.

“When you turned out to vote in the referendum, you did so because you wanted your voice to be heard. Some of you put your trust in the political process for the first time in decades. We cannot – and must not – let you down.

“Doing so would be a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy. So my message to parliament this weekend is simple: it is time to forget the games and do what is right for our country.”

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