January 3, 2019 / 11:10 PM / 9 months ago

Second referendum would only divide UK further - Stephen Barclay

BERLIN (Reuters) - A second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union would only exacerbate divisions among the British people, Brexit minister Stephen Barclay told a German newspaper.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Stephen Barclay leaves Downing Street in London, Britain, November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said last month there would be a “plausible argument” for another referendum if parliament failed to reach a consensus on the way forward, something Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly ruled out.

Barclay echoed May’s view.

“A second referendum would cause yet more division,” he told German daily Die Welt. “The current extent to which Britain is divided now would be small compared to the tensions that a second vote would cause. It would further divide our nation.”

The future of a Brexit agreement that May negotiated with the EU hangs in the balance in the run-up to a parliamentary vote, and calls for a second referendum - which she has consistently rejected - are growing.

Brexit is scheduled for March 29.

Barclay said a second referendum could not be organised before elections to the European Parliament in May.

“But then, European elections would have to take place in Britain,” he added. “Which means huge democratic damage, because people voted for a withdrawal but would have to nonetheless vote again at the end of May.”

“Our European colleagues couldn’t have any interest in it (a second referendum) either as that would trigger a very populist reaction,” he said.

British lawmakers must choose whether to accept May’s plans for a structured exit and relatively close economic ties to the EU, or reject it and spawn huge uncertainty about the country’s next steps. The vote is due in the week beginning Jan. 14.

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by James Dalgleish

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