POLITICS
29/02/2016 06:35 GMT | Updated 29/02/2016 08:59 GMT

Lord Howard: There Is A Chance Of A Second EU Referendum

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Former Conservative leader Michael Howard

Former Tory leader Lord Howard today claimed “there is a chance” of a second referendum if the UK votes to Leave the EU in June.

The Conservative peer, who last week announced he was backing Brexit, believes the European Union could offer the UK a “better deal” when confronted with the reality of the UK leaving the institution.

The second referendum option was quashed by David Cameron last week, who likened the plan to a couple beginning divorce proceedings in order to renew their marriage vows.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who appeared to float the idea of a double vote when he came out for Brexit, clarified his position this weekend as being against the plan.

But when asked about the possibility on ITV’s Good Morning Britain this morning, Mr Cameron’s former mentor Lord Howard said: “What I say, I can only speak for myself, OK, what I say is if we vote to leave there is a chance - I don't say it's a certainty - there's a chance that they might come back and say 'let's talk again', and have a better deal.

“But there may not be that chance, and if there isn't that chance I'd rather be out than in.”

The second referendum plan gained traction last week after Mr Johnson appeared to back seeking a new deal with the EU if the UK voted Leave on June 23.

He was dubbed ‘the Vicky Pollard of British politics’ for his latest ‘no but, yes but’ approach to the EU referendum, hinting that an Out vote could be followed a new negotiation and a fresh referendum.

In an interview with The Times on Saturday, Mr Johnson backed away from the idea, and said: “No. Out is out.

He added: “What I want is to get out and then negotiate a series of trade arrangements around the world.

Mr Cameron used an appearance in the Commons to warn that a second referendum was “not on the ballot paper” on June 23, before adding the idea of Brussels being forced into a fresh negotiation was “for the birds”.

Lord Howard’s comments come as a Tory minister campaigning for Brexit launched an almost unprecedented attack on the UK civil service.

Priti Patel accused the head of the civil service of acting in an “unconstitutional manner” by restricting the support available to ministers who back Brexit.

priti patel

Priti Patel

In a letter sent to the UK’s top civil servants, Sir Jeremy Heywood said: “It will not be appropriate or permissible for the Civil Service to support Ministers who oppose the Government’s official position by providing briefing or speech material on this matter.

“This includes access to official departmental papers, excepting papers that Ministers have previously seen on issues relating to the referendum question prior to the suspension of collective agreement.”

Ms Patel, a minister in the Department of Work and Pensions, was furious with the decision and said: “It is important that the civil service maintains impartiality during the EU referendum. Jeremy Heywood’s unconstitutional act threatens the reputation of the civil service.

“Secretaries of State are responsible for their departments. For an unelected official to prevent them being aware of the information they need for their duties is wrong.”

Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, Bernard Jenkin, told the World at One that banning ministers from accessing official documents relating to the EU referendum is not a good basis for democratic debate.

Fellow Brexiter and Tory MP Bernard Jenkin warned the relationship between civil servants and ministers could be "permanently damaged" by the decision.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World At One, he said: “I think we need to ask some perfectly legitimate questions about why certain instructions have been issued which would seem to affect the impartiality of the civil service, affect the accountability of Government departments to parliament and ultimately could see ministers arguing about objective facts, which the civil service have produced, but different facts for different ministers.

“That doesn’t seem to be a very good basis for a democratic debate. Unless the relationships between civil servants and ministers are to be permanently damaged, this needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.”