Gordon Brown calls for 12 month delay to Brexit

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has told ITV News Brexit should be delayed for 12 months and “citizens’ hearings” be set up across the country, as he accused Theresa May for putting the Conservative Party before the national interest.

Mr Brown said Article 50 should be extended to allow Parliament to lead a year-long consultation to get a clear idea of what people want.

Speaking to ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt, the ex-Labour leader said “I would prefer Britain not to leave", but denied his proposal was an attempt to reverse the result of the referendum.

“Parliament has proved itself incapable of solving this problem,” he said.

“The country is more divided than ever, none of the options being proposed are working and it’s going to be economically disastrous if we crash out on March 29, it’s constitutionally almost impossible now to get all the legislation through.

“So the best thing to do is to extend the negotiating period, agree with Europe that it will not be for three months, which would just be a continuation of the squabbling.

“The purpose is to listen to the people of Britain, they’ve got to be brought into this debate and they’ve got be consulted on the detail of these options.

“We should use that 12 months positively to listen to the people who I think will give us a better answer than Parliament is capable of giving at the moment.”

His suggestion is to set up a series of what he calls "citizens hearings" to give people the detail “they weren’t afforded during the referendum".

“We have some experience of this from Ireland with their abortion referendum, where they had a period where they consulted in detail, bringing people together on citizens’ hearings.

“They were able to interrogate the experts, interview the politicians, and look at all the evidence themselves.

“What would we do about immigration?

"What are we doing about sovereignty?

"Does the Norway option work for us?

"Does a Swiss option, a Canada option?

"I think people want to be given the facts... and this gives us time to do this.”

Gordon Brown has previously backed a second Brexit referendum, but is now suggesting another public vote should not be the priority.

“I think the Government or Parliament should lead this consultation and then report back to Parliament and then it’s up to Parliament to make these final decisions.”

So no second referendum?

“Not necessarily but that’s one option, there are many options, but Parliament has to listen to what the consultation says and then make up their mind.”

Mr Brown also said Jeremy Corbyn was “right to explore every option,” after it emerged the Labour leader has discussed a so-called "Common Market 2.0" proposal with backbench Tory and Labour MPs, but added: “I would tell him and others that there is no majority in the country either for the Norway option, or for what people sometimes call the Canada option or for no-deal or for Mrs May’s deal.”

The former prime minister, who left office in 2010, attacked Theresa May, when asked if he had any sympathy with the challenge she faces.

“I regret having to say this but I don’t feel the national interest is being properly pursued at the moment.

“I think the sadness is almost everything is seen through the lens of whether the Conservative Party can remain united, whether the Cabinet is going to split, how many resignations are going to come tomorrow.

“The European Research Group has been given a huge audience even though it’s a very small fraction of the Conservative Party.”

When asked about the Equality and Human Rights Commission announcement that it is opening an investigation into whether the Labour Party "unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs," Mr Brown replied: “This is about the soul of the Party and the soul of the country that we can tolerate no racism under any circumstances, and if investigations are to be held then they’ve got to be held in such a way that people can see the process is fair and indeed they believe it is fair.

“I’ve always thought of the Labour Party as being against all forms of racism and the tragedy is that anti-Semitism is a form of racism and people have to appreciate that unless you can deal with this form of racism, people will worry that other forms of racism will be tolerated.”