Theresa May to warn that new Brexit referendum would damage democracy

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Theresa May will hit out at calls for a new Brexit referendum, claiming such a move would send a message to millions of voters that democracy does not deliver.

The Prime Minister will use an address to the Commons on Monday to say that another national poll on EU withdrawal will do “irreparable damage” to the integrity of British politics.

The speech comes after another tough weekend for the PM, with Tony Blair calling for a second referendum and several Tory MPs admitting that the possibility of one had been discussed.

In an attempt to shut down calls for a new vote, Mrs May will say: “Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.

“Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.

“Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.

“And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.”

Tory MP Sam Gyimah, who resigned last month in opposition to Mrs May's Brexit deal, said he was aware of conversations involving Cabinet members concerning a potential second referendum.

Mr Gyimah said it was one of a number of options ministers were considering to prepare for the aftermath of Mrs May's Brexit deal being rejected.

ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand reported:

It came as two prominent allies of Theresa May denied newspaper claims they were defying the PM's official stance in case MPs reject her Brexit deal.

The Sunday Times reported David Lidington and Gavin Barwell, two of the prime minister's senior allies, were manoeuvering for a second referendum in private.

The newspaper claimed Mr Lidington, Mrs May's effective deputy, has discussed the potential to build a cross-party coalition with Labour MPs.

It said Mr Barwell, the Number 10 chief of staff, is reportedly in favour of a second vote, with MPs set to thwart Mrs May's negotiated Brexit deal.

ITV News' Paul Brand reported Mr Barwell and Mr Lidington both quickly distanced themselves from the claims.

While the pro-Remain former attorney general Dominic Grieve told ITV News he believed a shift had occurred within the government on the issue.

Mr Gyimah meanwhile sought to clarify that the discussions over a second referendum formed part of a number of conversations as ministers prepare for the prime minister's deal to be rejected in the House of Commons.

He tweeted: "To be clear, conversations are covering all the options and with MPs across the House. Given deadlock in parliament, it would be irresponsible for ministers not to reflect on which options would get through parliament."

Mrs May earlier said Mr Blair was guilty of "undermining" Brexit talks after he recently made a trip to the continent to influence the EU leadership.

"For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served," she said.

Mrs May, who has long opposed another referendum, denounced Mr Blair as she claimed holding another vote would amount to Parliament abdicating responsibility.

“We cannot, as he would, abdicate responsibility for this decision. Parliament has a democratic duty to deliver what the British people voted for," she said.

“I remain determined to see that happen. I will not let the British people down.”

Labour former prime minister Tony Blair believes MPs may call for a second EU referendum. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

In a series of high profile interventions into the Brexit debate Mr Blair has insisted that a majority of MPs may decide a second referendum is the only way out of parliamentary gridlock on EU withdrawal.

The prime minister said some critics were trying to take advantage of the situation for their own ends.

She said: “I am fighting for a good deal for Britain. I will continue to fight for a good deal for Britain.

“I have never lost sight of my duty and that is to deliver on the referendum result and to do so in a way that protects British jobs, keeps us safe and protects our precious Union.

“However there are too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests – rather than acting in the national interest.”