Final Say: Leading Conservative Brexiteers told to explain speeches showing they supported second referendum on final EU deal

Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis among MPs accused of ‘backtracking’ on previous support for further poll

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Sunday 05 August 2018 17:59 BST
Jacob Rees-Mogg suggests a second Brexit referendum would be acceptable in clip from 2011

Pro-EU MPs have demanded leading Tory Brexiteers "come clean" on why they abandoned their earlier support for a second Brexit referendum.

Prominent eurosceptics including Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis and John Redwood have all previously proposed two separate votes on Britain leaving the EU.

But they have ditched their support since the 2016 referendum and now oppose calls for a “People’s Vote” on the final Brexit deal.

It comes as a petition supporting The Independent’s campaign for a Final Say on Brexit passed 570,000 signatures.

Supporters of a further vote called on Brexiteers to explain their “backtrack” after a video of Mr Rees-Mogg proposing a second vote was widely shared online.

A speech given by Mr Davis, the former Brexit secretary, and an article by veteran Tory backbencher Mr Redwood were also circulated. Both backed the idea of a “double referendum”.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a leading spokesperson for the People’s Vote campaign, told The Independent: “The Brexiteers hold themselves up as champions of democracy and have at various stages been advocates of a referendum on the final Brexit deal – eagerly so in the belief they would win it – and now have backtracked as their promises have run off the rails during the negotiations.

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats' Brexit spokesperson, said: "Giving people the final say on the Brexit deal is essential and common sense - the Brexiters who one claimed they'd trust people to have the final say must now come clean on why they've changed their mind.

"A cynic may suggest it's because of the mess Brexit is becoming and the increasing clarify on the damage it will do the United Kingdom."

“They need to explain why they think an elite in Westminster should determine what the UK should do at the end of this process, and not the people.”

In a speech in parliament in 2011, Ms Rees-Mogg suggested a second referendum could be held and that it would “make more sense” if this was after Britain completed negotiations with the EU”.

Responding to a question about how the Brexit referendum would work, he replied: “That issue can be dealt with in the legislation. Indeed, we could have two referendums.

“As it happens, it might make more sense to have the second referendum after the renegotiation is completed.”

More recently, Mr Rees-Mogg has said calls for a second Brexit vote on the final deal negotiated with Brussels are “absurd”.

Earlier this year he told LBC: “It’s quite clear that people have voted to support leaving the European Union.

“It is slightly to my mind contentious of democracy to say, ‘we don’t like the vote so you will vote again, and then you will vote again until you do what we say’. That has been the European Union’s approach too many times.”

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, also previously proposed a “double referendum”.

In a speech in 2012, he said the government should first spell out what sort of relationship it wanted with the EU, and put this to a public vote in a “mandate referendum”.

A second vote should then take place after negotiations with the EU, he said. In this “decision referendum”, “the British people would either approve the new negotiated relationship, or if it was not good enough, it would trigger the negotiation to leave the Union”.

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He said: “This approach has a number of advantages: the mandate referendum would stiffen the spines of our negotiators, and undermine the legitimacy of the European resistance to change. One of the characteristics of the EU is that it never backs down in the face of national demands except when they are backed up by a referendum.

“This in turn would mean that British citizens would be offered the best possible circumstances for staying in, as well as a real alternative in pulling out. The purpose of this strategy is to maximise both the democratic legitimacy and the negotiating leverage to achieve our policy aims.”

Mr Redwood backed Mr Davis’ proposal in an article posted on his website in 2012.

He said the public should be given a vote on whether they wanted the UK to “negotiate a new relationship with the EU based on trade and political cooperation”.

Following negotiations, they would then be asked whether they wanted to withdraw from the EU.

In a post in 2012, he wrote: “The second referendum would follow once the negotiations were complete. That would ask: do you want to accept the new negotiated relationship with the EU or not? Voting No means withdrawing from the EU.

“This seems to me to be the best way forward. The negotiations would also allow the government to negotiate the items that would need to be sorted out for exit anyway. There do need to be arrangements on ferry routes, airspace, pipelines, extradition, police intelligence and all the rest between the UK and the rest of the EU.”

Mr Redwood also used a Guardian article in the run-up to the 2016 poll to suggest a second referendum was a certainty if Britain voted to remain in the EU.

Explaining why he no longer backed a second referendum, Mr Redwood told The Independent: "The double referendum strategy was proposed when the leadership of the Conservative Party refused to offer a simple Leave/Remain referendum in a manifesto to see if they could accept that instead. They didn’t.

"Subsequently they agreed to a one referendum approach, as did the people in the general election and the Parliament which followed. You can't change strategies – we did not have a mandate referendum, we held a single Leave/Remain referendum which now has to be implemented."

Mr Rees-Mogg and Mr Davis have been contacted for comment.

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