Philip Hammond Says A Second Brexit Referendum Is A 'Coherent' Idea

Chancellor warns "self indulgent" cabinet ministers that ousting May will not solve the Brexit impasse.

The chancellor suggested he was open to the proposition of a second Brexit referendum as he warned “self indulgent” cabinet colleagues plotting to oust Theresa May that changing leader would not solve the impasse gripping Britain.

Philip Hammond acknowledged that Tories are “very frustrated” but stressed the Commons must find a majority for a Brexit option that avoids no deal, acknowledging a second referendum on the prime minister’s deal was a “perfectly coherent proposition”.

He said parliament will “one way or another” have an opportunity to back alternatives to May’s beleaguered deal in indicative votes in the coming days, and that a plan for the withdrawal agreement to be put to a public vote “deserves to be considered”.

It came as The Sunday Times reported that 11 cabinet ministers want May to step down and replaced with a caretaker leader, with the PM’s de facto deputy David Lidington in pole position to take over.

But the Mail on Sunday reported other ministers were plotting to install Environment Secretary Michael Gove as PM.

Asked if he was trying to help Lidington get the top job, Hammond said: “That’s not the case”.

But he acknowledged on Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: “I speak to all sorts of colleagues and I am not going to divulge the contents of those conversations.

“But I will be absolutely up front - people are very frustrated and people are desperate to find a way forward in the two weeks we’ve got to resolve this issue.”

Hammond however warned that changing leader would make no difference, telling Ridge: “The world watching will see that we have just over two weeks to complete this process.

“To be talking about changing the players on the board frankly is self indulgent at this time.

“We have to decide how we want to proceed.”

He added: “This is not about the prime minister or any other individual, this is about the future of our country.

“And changing prime minister wouldn’t help us, changing party in government wouldn’t help us.

“We have got to address the question of what type of Brexit is acceptable to parliament.”

He told MPs to either accept May’s deal or form a majority for an alternative option.

“But it has to be a variant that’s deliverable, not some unicorn,” he said.

Hammond said leaving with no deal and revoking Article 50 to stop Brexit should be ruled out of indicative votes as they would both have “very serious negative consequences” for the UK.

But after hundreds of thousands of people joined a Saturday march on parliament demanding a final say for the public over Brexit, Hammond indicated he was open to a backbench plan to back May’s deal in return for a referendum pitting it against remaining in the EU.

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He described that kind of second referendum, as proposed by Labour’s Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, as “a perfectly coherent proposition” that “deserves to be considered along with the other proposals”, while suggesting it could not command a majority.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith launched a stinging attack on cabinet ministers plotting a coup.

He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think that’s appalling, I think they should be censured and some of them should be sacked.

“And the idea of a cabal, a cabal that never wanted to leave the European Union, turning out to decide what should happen over our future would be unacceptable to my colleagues.”

He added: “If there is to be a leadership change that leadership change has to be done through the correct process with the membership out there deciding who will be their leader - not some ghastly five or six man and woman cabal that actually decides things internally.”

But anger at May’s leadership spilled over on the backbenches after she delayed Brexit until April 12 at the earliest and used a Downing Street address to the nation on Wednesday to pitch parliament against the people by blaming MPs for her failure to deliver Brexit on time on March 29.

Her former policy adviser MP George Freeman said it was “all over for the PM”, tweeting: “She’s done her best. But across the country you can see the anger.

“Everyone feels betrayed. Government’s gridlocked. Trust in democracy collapsing. This can’t go on. We need a new PM who can reach out (and) build some sort of coalition for a Plan B.”

Pro-EU former education secretary Nicky Morgan told the Sunday Telegraph that cabinet ministers should tell May “it’s time to go” while Brexiteer Steve Baker said potential leadership contenders in the government should “act now”.

Brexiteer Tory backbencher Anne-Marie Trevelyan wrote in the same paper: “We now need a leader who believes in our country and wants to take her on the next stage of her journey.”

Conservative peer Lord Gadhia, a former member of David Cameron’s inner circle, said the upcoming days in parliament may be “very dramatic” and could see the end of Mrs May’s time as premier.

Elsewhere, pro-Brexit campaigners will continue their long hike from the North East to the capital, leaving Loughborough on Sunday morning.


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