Brexit could be put ‘back to the people’ in second referendum, chancellor Philip Hammond says

'I am not sure the general election can resolve the question,' says chancellor

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 30 May 2019 09:46
Philip Hammond admits second referendum on Brexit more likely than general election

Philip Hammond has said Brexit may have to be put “back to the people” if the ongoing impasse cannot be resolved by parliament.

The chancellor signalled he could be willing to support a second referendum to solve the crisis, saying he was “not sure a general election can resolve the question” due to deep splits in both Labour and the Tories.

Mr Hammond also left the door open to standing to be the next Tory leader if his views on Brexit were not “properly represented” by another candidate.

Senior Conservatives were lining up to succeed Ms May, with 11 contenders currently in the frame and the defence secretary Penny Mordaunt widely expected to announce her candidacy.

The contest has ramped up fears of a no-deal Brexit as hardline candidates, such as the former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, talk up a disorderly exit from the EU.

Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It will be a stain on parliament’s reputation if at the end we have to admit that we have been unable to agree how to discharge the [Brexit] mandate from the people.

“But if we do get to the point when do have to admit that parliament can’t resolve this issue, then clearly it will have to be remitted back to the people.

“I am not sure the general election can resolve the question for the simple reason that both the main political parties are divided on the issues.”

Asked if he could support a second referendum, he said: “My strong preference would be for parliament to resolve this issue, but if parliament can’t resolve it then parliament will have to decide how we remit it back to the people, whether it is in the form of a general election or a referendum.”

Mr Hammond did not rule out taking part in the Conservative leadership race if his views on Brexit were not ”properly represented” by another candidate.

He said: “My position is this: I have a very clear view about these things and I want to make sure my view is represented in this contest.

“Because my views are quite well known and have been expressed in quite uncompromising terms over a long period of time, I am perhaps quite a divisive figure. I would rather that the view I represent is presented in this contest by someone with, perhaps, a fresher face.

“As long as I feel the views I hold are properly represented, I won’t feel the need to take part.”

Most leadership candidates have said they would keep no deal on the table as part of their negotiating strategy, with only Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, saying he would rule out a disorderly exit.

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Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, has vowed to use “the levers of the executive” to force through a no-deal Brexit if required.

He told The Spectator: “I’m not going to get into the tactical machinations but I am confident that the government – if the No 10 operation is well set up and highly professional, if you have got discipline in cabinet and you exercise the levers of the executive – can get there.”

He also said he would ”have a zero-tolerance approach to the breakdown or flouting of cabinet collective responsibility”, suggesting he would install a Eurosceptic top team in government.

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