British Prime Minister Theresa May and other prominent conservatives denied preparing for a second Brexit referendum, despite reports such an outcome was becoming increasingly likely.
British bookmaker William Hill placed the possibility of a second referendum at 54 percent Sunday after the European Court of Justice ruled that Britain could cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 European Union members as May indicated she would rescind a vote on a withdrawal agreement after observing it would be defeated by a “significant margin” in parliament.
“We think she is out of options and the most palatable of the two remaining options is a people’s vote,” William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams told CNN.
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington also held talks with Labor Party lawmakers in hopes of building a cross-party coalition for a second referendum. Lidington and other senior ministers, including Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark believe a second referendum is the only way to settle the stalemate in parliament.
May’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, denied reports from two Sunday papers that he was among those who believed a second referendum was the only way forward in a series of tweets.
“Happy to confirm I am *not* planning a 2nd referendum with political opponents (or anyone else to anticipate the next question),” he wrote.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the government’s policy “couldn’t be clearer” in terms of avoiding a second vote.
“We are here to act on the will of the people clearly expressed in the referendum,” said Hinds. “A second referendum would be divisive. We had the people’s vote, we had the referendum, and now we’ve got to get on with implementing it. Any idea that having a second referendum now would break through an impasse is wrong. It might postpone the impasse, but then it would extend it.”
May on Sunday also spoke out against former Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, who publicly called for a second vote.
“There are too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests rather than acting in the national interest,” she said. “For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.”
May plans to meet with the 27 European Union ambassadors in addition to sending her most senior legal officer, Jonathan Jones, to Brussels next week in pursuit of securing legally binding assurances on a plan to prevent reestablishing a hard border with Northern Ireland if the sides fail to reach a trade deal.