Former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg has backed The Independent’s campaign for a Final Say referendum on the Brexit deal as a petition attracted a quarter of a million signatures in just 48 hours.
Hitting out at the division and “self-absorbed infighting” in Westminster, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats said it is now “obvious” that Brexit cannot be left with the politicians alone.
His remarks come as a string of cross-party politicians backed the campaign, including the Green leader Caroline Lucas, the former Conservative education secretary Justine Greening and the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair.
And on Friday, a YouGov for The Times found that 42 per cent of voters back a fresh poll on the final Brexit deal, compared to 40 per cent who do not. It is the first time the pollster found the proportion of voters who favour a second vote overtaking those who do not, the newspaper added.
“With each passing day it’s obvious that Brexit can’t be left to the politicians. The whole Brexit process has been characterised by division and infighting in Westminster,” Sir Nick told The Independent.
“The victors of the 2016 referendum still can’t agree amongst themselves what they want, two years later.
“So it is great that The Independent is adding its important voice to the growing demands across the country to put the decision on the future of our country back where it belongs – in the hands of the people.”
The Independent started its campaign for a Final Say on whatever Brexit term emerge next year alongside a petition, which has now gathered over 250,000 signatures.
An editorial published on Wednesday said: “The British people decided to pursue our course in the referendum of 2016, so as we now look for a decision on whether we will like the deal agreed with the EU (assuming there is one), it is natural that those same people should have the final say.
“Indeed, given the magnitude of the decision, it would be essential for the British people to be given that final right of approval, even if cabinet and parliament were providing the leadership we need, which they are not.”
Backing the campaign on Thursday, Mr Blair posted on his official Twitter account: “33m+ people voted in the EU referendum wanting a better country, not to be poorer, not to put further pressure on our already stretched health service, not for job losses or to stockpile food and medicines. It should be your #Finalsay.”
It also comes as a key proposal in the prime minister’s Brexit blueprint – outlined in her Chequers agreement – was rejected by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
Central to the prime minister's plan, set out in a white paper a fortnight ago, is a "facilitated customs arrangement" under which tariffs charged at the border would be passed on to either the British or EU authorities depending on the destination of imported goods.
Appearing alongside new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab following their second round of talks in Brussels, Michel Barnier left no doubt that this was not acceptable to the EU.
"The EU cannot and the EU will not delegate the application of its customs policy and rules and VAT and excises duty collection to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU's governance structures," he said.
Any customs arrangement or union "must respect this principle".
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