Could there be a second EU referendum, how could another Brexit vote happen and what is Labour’s position?

Could there be a second EU referendum, how could another Brexit vote happen and what is Labour’s position?

At this tumultuous time, here's what we know about the possibility of a second referendum – and how another Brexit vote would work.

Will there be a second referendum?

On December 3, Mrs May's spokesman again made clear there will be no second referendum while she is PM.

May's position looks all the stronger for having seen off a vote of no confidence from her own party on December 12, coming away with a majority of 83 as preferred leader.

This leadership challenge came after she cancelled the crunch Brexit vote in the Commons on December 11 as it was widely thought she would lose.

The Prime Minister's deputy David Lidington, and Justice Secretary David Gauke have been in talks with Labour politicians to see if there was support for a second vote – or a Norway-style deal. May's Cabinet allies have also been asking MPs if they could back a second referendum.

Allies told the Sunday Times that most MPs are likely to get behind a second Brexit referendum, further dividing Britain.

Civil servants have reportedly been drawing up possible scenarios – including Leave and Remain, or a second option on whether to back May's deal or leave on World Trade Organisation terms.

The PM has publicly ruled out another vote on Brexit time and time again.

But Mrs May is having ever less room to negotiate as she tries to broker a deal that is more palatable to her colleagues.

That vote could now be delayed until January, if it happens at all.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood has hinted he could support another referendum.

He said: "If parliament does not agree a Brexit deal soon, then we must recognise that the original mandate to leave, taken over two years ago, will begin to date and will, eventually, no longer represent a reflection of current intent."

One Cabinet minister told The Observer that the PM was so committed to the deal that "a second referendum could now be the only way of getting it".

Science minister Sam Gyimah and Universities minister Jo Johnson have both quit the government in the last month and called for a second vote on Brexit.

Several other ministers and whips are also said to be on the verge of walking out too.

Gavin Williamson's parliamentary aide Will Quince quit on December 8 and Liam Fox's private secretary is also considering quitting too.

Shortly after Jo Johnson's resignation, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for a second Brexit referendum accusing the UK government of “self absorption.”

He told Politico: “If I was Theresa May, I would call a second referendum — no doubt.”

Sanchez said that Britain leaving the European Union was “a great loss for both.”

He added: “I hope it can be reconsidered in the future”.

A number of EU leaders echoed their support for a second referendum at the end of September.

Works and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd suggested there could be a second referendum if May's Brexit plan is rejected by MPs in the Commons.

While Downing Street has insisted there is no plan B, Rudd admitted "anything could happen".

May's deputy and chief of staff have reportedly both held secret talks in a plot to hold a second Brexit referendum.

Deputy David Lidington has met with Labour MPs in secret while adviser Gavin Barwell has decided plans for another vote should be drawn up, it's claimed.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, Mrs May's defacto deputy, has met Labour MPs to discuss a cross-party consensus on the idea of a new vote, according to the Sunday Times.

The newspaper also claimed that Mrs May's chief of staff, Gavin Barwell was supportive of the idea.

According to the Mail on Sunday, sources said Mr Barwell told pro-Remain Cabinet Ministers that a "second vote is the only way out of this".

But on December 17, May warned that a new Brexit referendum would cause "irreparable damage".

She attempted to kill off the idea for good by telling MPs a referendum re-run would "break faith" with voters.

On December 19 2018, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd became the first Cabinet Minister to suggest there "was an argument" for a People's Vote.

What is Labour's position?

Now that May's leadership is being questioned, Labour have the chance to step up.

Labour veterans such as Yvette Cooper joined forces with Tories Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan to threaten a Parliamentary mutiny.

They tabled an amendment to the Government’s Finance Bill on January 8 which will effectively block part of it unless the PM’s agreement with Brussels is voted on before Brexit on March 29.

And they said it was just the start of a concerted campaign to hijack parliamentary procedure to modify legislation to try and make a No Deal –where we leave the EU without a trade deal – impossible. They then hope that if PM’s Brexit agreement is voted down, Parliament can then agree on a Plan B – such as a Norway-style exit.

Ms Morgan told The Sun: “This is the start of Parliament making clear through amendments that we are not going to have a No Deal.”

The Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has said they would start seeking a second referendum.

The GMB, one of the UK's biggest trade unions, called for a vote on the final Brexit deal.

In September 2018, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan dramatically called for another EU referendum — saying that people must be given the opportunity to reject Brexit.

Labour's official position is that it would vote against any deal struck by Theresa May with the aim of pushing for a General Election.

Speaking on BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Starmer said: “If there’s no deal brought back or the deal is voted down, then other options are on the table, one of which is a public vote.

“And in that public vote no options are ruled out, including the option of remain."

On November 25 former PM Tony Blair insisted Jeremy Corbyn is likely to start backing a second EU referendum in the near future.

After May won her leadership battle on December 12, Corbyn tweeted: "Tonight's vote changes nothing.

"Theresa May has lost her majority in Parliament, her Government is in chaos and she's unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first.

"She must now bring her botched deal back to Parliament next week."

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said it would be "inevitable" another EU referendum would be called if Labour are not able to force a general election.

He told the BBC forcing an election would be "very difficult" and if that was not possible, Labour would push for another referendum.

What are the odds of a second Brexit referendum?

In December, Bet365 was offering 5/4 that there would be another referendum by the end of 2019, and 4/7 there would not.

Timeline in the build-up of pressure for a second referendum

  • January 2018 The former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said on Channel5’s The Wright Stuff he was considering calling for a second referendum as a way to kill off the topic once and for all.
  • March 2018 Leave. EU was fined £70,000 for failing to declare “at least” £77,380 it had spent on campaigning.
  • April 2018 The campaign group People’s Vote was started with Labour MP Chuka Umunna at its head, along with three other members of parliament and the actor Patrick Stewart.
  • July 2018 Theresa May's Cabinet agrees her latest Brexit strategy, known as the Chequers Plan.
  • July 2018 The Electoral Commission fined the Vote Leave campaign group £61,000 after it said it had broken electoral law by exceeding its spending limit.
  • July 2018 Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour should back a second vote on EU membership if MPs rejected Theresa May’s final deal with Brussels.
  • September 2018 Tony Blair, in an interview with Euronews, said the Government's Brexit proposal was "doomed to fail". He warned May's proposal was "the worst of both worlds and will satisfy nobody."
  • September 2018 Former Education Secretary Justine Greening said Chequers Brexit plan was “more unpopular than the poll tax”.
  • September 2018 Sadiq Khan called for another EU referendum because he believes the people must be given the chance to reject Brexit.
  • September 2018 Leaders of Czech Republic and Malta call on Theresa May to commit to a second referendum at a summit in Salzburg.
  • September 2018 Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says his party is open to the idea of a second referendum and said that his party would be prepared to vote down Theresa May's final deal if it "didn't meet their tests".
  • September 2018 Party bosses have hinted they'll back a second referendum – but Jeremy Corbyn's closest ally, John McDonnell, has ruled out keeping Britain in the EU
  • October 2018 The People's Vote march in London takes place with around 700,000 demanding a final say on the Brexit deal.
  • November 2018 A poll finds that the majority of voters in areas held by Labour seats would support a second referendum.
  • November 2018 May's Brexit draft passes Cabinet, only to be met with an unfriendly house, and multiple resignations from ministers and key government officers.
  • November 2018 The Prime Minister secures the backing of the EU for the UK's Brexit draft deal at a meeting in Brussels.
  • November 2018 EU and UK agree on final leaving deal but it still has to be voted through parliament.
  • November 2018 Ex-PM Tony Blair claims Labour is about to back a second referendum
  • December 2018 Theresa May's Cabinet allies have been asking MPs if they could back a second Brexit referendum.
  • December 2018  Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd became the first Cabinet Minister to suggest there "was an argument" for a People's Vote.

What have polls indicated?

A poll carried out by NatCen and The UK in Changing Europe revealed 59 per cent of voters would now vote to remain in the EU, while 41 per cent would opt to leave.

The author of the poll John Curtice urged caution over the finding.

He said the interview panel was skewed towards remain, and that some of the shift was among those who did not take part in the original Brexit referendum.

On November 2, 2018, it was reported that the majority of voters in all seats held by Labour support a second referendum on Brexit.

The findings were according to an analysis released by the People’s Vote campaign from a YouGov poll of 26,000 people.

On December 17, 2018, a Sky Data poll revealed that over half (53%) of Britons would support a referendum between May's Brexit deal, no deal, and staying in the EU.

How would the vote work?

The Prime Minister was determined to persuade MPs to back the deal in a Parliamentary vote on December 11 .

But when success seemed so unlikely that she pulled the vote, it is now unclear what will happen next.

One potential course of events would involve the vote returning to the Commons by the end of January.

If she then fails to secure the votes required then a second Brexit referendum could be on the table.

The SNP have said they would back a so-called People's Vote and a number of Conservative MPs have also backed one.

So there could be a majority in Parliament for it but a second referendum will not happen quickly and the first stage is for there to be an Act of Parliament.

That will require the backing of a majority of MPs and it took seven months before Parliament signed off the previous referendum legislation in 2015.

Last time around there was a four-month period between the then Prime Minister David Cameron announcing the referendum in February 2016, and the vote taking place on 23 June.

But the Electoral Commission has said in future there should be at least a six-month gap to allow enough time to register campaigns and put counting officers in place.

There is also the question of what to do about Article 50.

Britain could vote to remain in the EU, but have already left by the time the vote was held.

This could be avoided if the EU agreed to extend the Article 50 deadline – but that would need to be unanimously agreed by all EU member states.

Then there is the question of what to put on the ballot paper.

If there are three questions – for example accept a negotiated Brexit deal; stay in the EU; or leave with no deal – then just 34 per cent could decide the winning option.

When was the first EU referendum?

The first referendum on EU membership took place in 1975.

Two-thirds of voters (67.23 per cent) backed the continued membership of the European Economic Community, which the UK had joined only two years before.

Under Harold Wilson's leadership, the Labour Party was trying to present to the public a different version of EEC membership to get a better deal.

The EEC was integrated into the European Union after it was created in 1993.

In the summer of 2016, Britain voted to leave the EU after 17.4million people backed Leave compared to 16.1million Remain voters.

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