May insists there won’t be second Brexit referendum

Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture; Frank Augstein
Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture; Frank Augstein
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Prime Minister Theresa May has set her face firmly against a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

She told Cabinet colleagues that “Brexit means Brexit” and there will be no attempt to stay in the EU “by the back door”.

Mrs May was speaking at her country retreat, Chequers, as the Cabinet met for the first time after the summer break.

As work continues on preparations for withdrawal negotiations, each Cabinet member had been told to use the meeting to set out what opportunities leaving the EU presents for their department.

Speaking at the start of the all-day meeting, Mrs May said: “We’ll be looking at the next steps that we need to take, and we’ll also be looking at the opportunities that are now open to us as we forge a new role for the UK in the world.

“We must continue to be very clear that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, that we’re going to make a success of it. That means there’s no second referendum; no attempts to sort of stay in the EU by the back door; that we’re actually going to deliver on this.”

Mrs May said “quite a lot of work” had already been done over the summer on preparing the way for exit negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties and it was “a very significant moment for the country, as we look ahead to the next steps that we need to take”.

The PM added: “We have the opportunity to forge a new positive role for the UK in the world, to make sure that we are that government and country that works for everyone – that everyone can share in the 
country’s prosperity.

“So there are challenges ahead but it’s an important and significant moment for us and I think we have real opportunities to develop the United Kingdom and ensure that it does work for everyone in the UK.”

Despite pressure from Leave supporters for a swift departure from the EU, Mrs May has already made it clear she will wait at least until the end of this year before triggering the two-year process by invoking Article 50.

Downing Street indicated on Tuesday that she is unlikely to seek parliamentary approval before taking the step, saying only that MPs would be given “a say” on the process and declining to commit the Government to giving them a vote.

Conservative former business minister Anna Soubry – part of the Open Britain group being launched this week by supporters of the Remain campaign – said Britain should push for a deal that preserves access to the single market and free movement for EU citizens.

She said she would be “concerned about any plans to curb immigration” from Europe, which had “benefited our country, especially business”.

Cabinet ministers are believed to be split over whether the UK should seek continued membership of the single market, which is likely to involve signing up to free movement as well as making financial contributions to 
Brussels budgets.