Theresa May refuses to say how she would vote in second EU referendum

'We are not having another referendum and that's absolutely crucial', Prime Minister says

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 10 October 2017 19:00
Theresa May refuses to answer whether she would now vote Remain or Leave

Theresa May has refused to say how she would vote in a second referendum on the European Union.

The Prime Minister, who campaigned for Remain during last year's vote, repeatedly failed to give a clear answer on Brexit to LBC host Iain Dale. She dismissed the question as "hypothetical".

In her first interview since her ill-fated party conference speech, Ms May also confirmed reports that crunch Brexit negotiations would not take place on Wednesday amid accusations from Brussels that British officials were holding up talks by not being available for meetings.

Ms May said. "I voted remain for good reasons at the time but circumstances move on and I think the important thing now is that we should all be focused on delivering Brexit and delivering the best deal.

"You are asking me to say, 'How would I vote in a vote now', against a different background, a different international background, a different economic background."

Pressing her on an answer, Dale referenced Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – another Remainer in the 2016 referendum – who said he had changed his mind and would vote Leave in the event of another poll.

"Why can't you change your mind? You're Prime Minister leading us into Brexit ... You can't tell me you'd vote leave in a referendum," he said.

Under pressure, Ms May said she would approach it the same way she done the original Brexit vote.

The Prime Minister said: "I could say I would still vote Remain or I would vote Leave just to give you an answer to that question. I am being open and honest with you.

"What I did last time round was I looked at everything and came to a judgement and I'd do exactly the same this time round.

"But we are not having another referendum and that's absolutely crucial."

Despite growing pressure to make progress in the fifth round of Brexit talks, no meetings are scheduled for Wednesday in Brussels, wiping out a quarter of the available time in this round.

Ms May said: "I believe that talks have not been scheduled for tomorrow [Wednesday].

"The fact that talks are taking place at all this week is partly because the UK said we thought they should."

Britain and the EU are still at loggerheads over key issues, including the Northern Ireland border, EU citizens’ rights and the so-called divorce bill. If no agreement can be reached then the EU is unlikely to agree to move onto vital trade talks, adding further delays.

It comes after Ms May warned the public to prepare for a no-deal scenario in a statement to MPs where she outlined contingency plans to avoid a meltdown on the border for businesses and travellers.

Answering questions from callers, the Prime Minister also admitted she could not guarantee the rights of some 1.2 million UK nationals living in Europe or the future of 3 million EU citizens in Britain if a Brexit deal is not achieved.

She said: "The point is that there are certain rights that pertain to somebody who is an EU citizen here in the UK by virtue of being an EU citizen – things like benefits they are able to access in relation to their home country and in relation to the UK.

"Some of those issues would fall away if there was no deal because there wouldn't be agreement between us and the EU about how those things would be looked at, so we would have to look at these issues separately in a no deal scenario."

On the status of British nationals in Europe if no deal is reached, she said: "We don't know what would happen to them. The EU member states would have to consider what their approach would be to those UK citizens.

"By definition, if there isn't a deal we won't have been able to agree with the EU what happens to UK citizens currently living in countries like Spain and Italy and other members of the EU."

In a wide-ranging interview, Ms May also joked that she needed a "stiff drink" after her Tory conference speech was derailed by a prankster clutching a P45 form, a persistent cough and a collapsing set.

She said her husband Philip had been "a bit worried" when comedian Simon Brodkin approached her but she never thought about stopping her speech, despite being wracked by a coughing fit.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson said: “It is staggering that even the Prime Minister isn't convinced by the Government's approach to Brexit.

”If Theresa May doesn't have any faith in her own Government's policies, why is she still driving this country towards the cliff edge?

“Theresa May says she would weigh up the evidence again, she shouldn't deny that right to the British people.

“The public must have the chance to change their mind if they want to, once the Government comes back with a deal.”

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat shadow education secretary, added, “There is nothing ok about this.”

Nigel Farage, former Ukip leader and LBC radio presenter, said Ms May’s “lack of answer” made him “angry”.

“How can @Theresa_May negotiate Brexit without believing in it?” he wrote on Twitter.

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