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Andy Burham says second referendum social unrest price worth paying to avoid no-deal Brexit

Andy Burnham argued that Parliament should ask to postpone the departure deadline if they head towards a no-deal Brexit. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

Andy Burnham has warned that social unrest on the streets of Britain could be a price worth paying to prevent the “nightmare scenario” of a no-deal Brexit.

In a major speech in Westminster, the Greater Manchester Mayor said a second referendum on Brexit would be welcomed as a last resort to prevent the UK crashing out of the European Union without an agreement.

The Labour former Cabinet minister argued that if Parliament heads towards a no-deal Brexit, the European Union should be asked to postpone the UK's departure deadline in order to allow further negotiations.

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The UK has a departure deadline of March 2019 and many are calling for a second referendum to be held if Parliament fails to make an acceptable deal with Brussels.

Mr Burnham said: "I have to think seriously about what a second vote would mean on the streets of Greater Manchester,

“If we thought the first was bad, the second would be a whole lot worse. It won’t heal divisions but widen them, it would be angrier, create social unrest and open up a massive opportunity for the populist far right in a way we are seeing elsewhere in Europe and the USA.”

He went on to suggested that “alt-right” activists could be pushing the no-deal agenda in order to exploit splits in British society.

Andy Burnham has not backed a second referendum but warned about the Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

The mayor acknowledged that a second vote would cause "division on our streets" and stressed he was not supporting the People’s Vote campaign for a referendum as it would "further erode trust in Parliament and politicians".

However, he said: "There is always a price that comes with that, but in the end that price is worth paying to stop the catastrophic damage to jobs that would come with a no-deal Brexit.”

Mr Burnham is also campaigning for extra powers to be given to the devolved regions and cities as the 2016 referendum result was an instruction for Westminster to review its relationship with the rest of England”

He added: “If the phrase ‘take back control’ is to mean anything, it must mean substantial devolution of power and resources out of Westminster to all of the English regions."

MPs returned to Parliament this week for the first Prime Minister's Questions after the summer.

A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said: “As a result of the significant progress made in negotiations, we remain confident we will agree a mutually advantageous deal with the EU.”