Justine Greening has become the most senior Conservative to throw support behind a second EU referendum and suggested many more Tories privately share her view.
But the former education secretary has not proposed a simple re-run of the 2016 vote of ‘Leave’ versus ‘Remain’ which she said would be a “divisive, binary choice”.
Under her plan outlined in The Times, the public would be given the choice of three outcomes.
1. Theresa May’s final Brexit deal as negotiated with the EU.
2. Leaving the EU with no deal at all.
3. Remaining in the EU.
The public would also be given a first and second preference vote in an attempt to build a “consensus” result.
Greening’s plan would see a second referendum take place on something like the Supplementary Vote system, which is used to elect the Mayor of London as well as other mayors across the country.
Voters would rank two of the three Brexit options in first and second place.
The option with the fewest first-place preferences would then be eliminated.
If one of the options received more than 50% of the vote it would win.
If not, the second preference votes of the third-ranked option would be reallocated to the top two and the option with the most votes would win.
Downing Street this morning flatly rejected Greening’s plan and insisted there would be no second referendum.
Labour does not currently back a referendum on the deal, but Jeremy Corbyn has not ruled it out. The SNP, Lib Dems and a handful of Tory backbenchers are campaigning for another vote.
Analysis from HuffPost UK executive editor, politics, Paul Waugh
Six months after she was effectively sacked, Justine Greening has proved revenge is a dish best served cold.
She told the Today programme that May’s Brexit plan was “a genuine clever attempt at a compromise but it won’t work…it’s the worst of both worlds.” She said other Tories backed her referendum plan, and Dominic Grieve has in the past refused to rule it out.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson refused to rule it out either on Monday morning. Some voters will be furious that they’re being asked to vote again and again until they get the ‘right’ result and many non-aligned MPs are queasy about the damage it will do to trust in politics as a whole.
Greening’s plan involves three options: Chequers Brexit, no deal Brexit, or no Brexit at all. It reminds me of the three-point plan that Cameron rejected on Scottish independence (devo max, independence, status quo) but which some Tories say would have killed the SNP’s surge stone dead. By creating three options you split the opposition to the status quo, and reduce the chances of the most radical option. Greening is even suggesting a second preference voting system that would increase the hopes of a compromise. Brexiteers will say her plans would mean an unfair, rigged vote, not a real choice.
But just imagine if Jeremy Corbyn backed the Greening plan, buying off his Leaver MPs with a promise to curb EU migration if the UK voted to stay in? A second referendum would also increase the chances of May being forced to call a new general election too, if her Chequers option lost. A poll that leads to another poll would be tempting indeed for the Opposition. Though Brenda from Bristol may actually go out and buy a sawn-off shotgun.