One of Theresa May’s most senior Cabinet ministers has raised the prospect of a second referendum to break the Brexit deadlock, as speculation over the future of the beleaguered UK prime minister and her twice-defeated divorce bill reaches fever pitch.
A day after hundreds of thousands marched in central London to demand another public vote, Chancellor Philip Hammond said a second referendum – likely to be one of the options put to lawmakers in the coming days – was a “coherent proposition” that deserves consideration.
His comments signal a clear break from May’s repeated refusal to allow the British public a second poll on Brexit, and mark the first time a senior Cabinet minister has spoken about such a move as a viable possibility.
The Chancellor confirmed parliament would vote on a series of alternative Brexit options this week, and acknowledged that May will be unlikely to salvage her own plan, which lawmakers have already crushed by historic proportions on two occasions.
“One way or another Parliament is going to have the opportunity this week to decide what it is in favor of, and I hope that it will take that opportunity — if it can’t get behind the Prime Minister’s deal — to say clearly and unambiguously what it can get behind,” Hammond told Sky News.
“I’m not sure that there’s a majority in Parliament for a second referendum but it’s a perfectly coherent proposition — many people will be strongly opposed to it, but it’s a coherent proposition and it deserves to be considered along with the other proposals.”
MPs could vote as soon as Monday on that and a series of other Brexit alternatives, in an attempt to find a route out of the country’s chaotic political standstill before the new April 12 deadline imposed by the European Council on Thursday.
Options are likely to include continued membership of the EU’s single market or customs union, a second vote, a Canada-style free trade agreement and a no-deal exit.