Brexit: Poorest will be hit hardest by 'catastrophic' no deal, warns John Major

Ex-prime minister suggests fresh referendum may be needed - 'Is it morally justified? I think it is'

John Major it is the least well off who will suffer most post brexit

The poorest will be hit hardest if Theresa May pursues a “catastrophic” no-deal Brexit, John Major has warned, as he said a fresh referendum was nearing.

The former Conservative prime minister said the motto of MPs wrestling with a way out of the crisis, with the negotiations stalled, should be “people, people, people”.

Sir John said he “did not much like” the Chequers plan put forward by the prime minister, but attacked the refusal of Brexiteers to compromise.

“If every compromise reached by the cabinet is blocked by this minority of irreconcilable, hardline, utterly committed, anti-Europeans, then we will not actually get to the negotiations.

“We will fall out without a deal, then it will be damaging for Europe but catastrophic for us.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “It is the people who have the least who will end up being hurt most.”

Sir John also said he now believed a further Brexit referendum might be the only way to avoid even “greater disillusion than we have seen”.

“Frankly, a second vote has democratic downsides. It has difficulties,” he warned, but he added: “Is it morally justified? I think it is.

“If you look back at the Leave campaign, a great many of the promises they made were fantasy promises. We now know they are not going to be met.

“A referendum isn't an easy option, but it's not one at this stage that I would rule out.”

Sir John’s comments came after the new Brexit secretary refused to set out the no deal planning the government is making – despite insisting the UK would “thrive”.

Dominic Raab condemned “hair-raising stories” that food will be stockpiled, and motorways turned into lorry parks, if Britain crashes out of the EU with no agreement.

However, Mr Raab would not say what preparations are being made, beyond the hiring of extra border staff, while hinting the public would be told more in the coming months.

Nicky Morgan, a leading pro-EU Tory insisted parliament would not allow a no-deal outcome – provided her fellow Conservatives were brave enough to speak out.

“I do believe there is a majority in parliament, there’s a majority on the Conservative benches, who would not accept a no deal,” she told the BBC.

“They have got to find the courage to voice that and to make that very clear – and we are running out of time.”

Asked if he backed a further referendum, Sir John replied: “Would you buy a house without knowing the price? No, you would not.

“Should we finally decide to leave Europe without knowing the cost of doing so? And by the cost, I don’t just mean to the Government, to the nation. I mean to the lives of individual people in every constituency in the land.

“I think it’s arguable that, once the cost is known, if it is as damaging as I believe it will be, then you either face the question of letting the public endorse it or not, or five years down the road, when it is blazingly apparent how much has gone wrong, there will be a huge amount of disillusion, much greater disillusion than we’ve yet seen, with the British political system.”

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