© pool/AFP | John Major and his wife Norma at a service to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday at St Paul’s Cathedral in London in June
LONDON (AFP) – Former British prime minister John Major believes there is a “credible case” for a second referendum on Brexit, a newspaper reported Friday, after his successor Tony Blair suggested the process could be stopped.
Major, a former leader of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party, warned against the “tyranny of the majority” in implementing the June vote to leave the European Union, in which 52 percent opted for Brexit.
“I hear the argument that the 48 percent of people who voted to stay should have no say in what happens. I find that very difficult to accept,” he told a dinner this week, according to The Times newspaper.
“The tyranny of the majority has never applied in a democracy and it should not apply in this particular democracy.”
Asked if the public should be given another say on the terms of the withdrawal deal, Major reportedly said: “That is a matter for parliament. You can make a perfectly credible case for it.
“I don’t know whether that will happen. I think we need to see how things pan out before we decide exactly what needs to be done.”
He said he accepted Britain would not remain a full member of the EU but still hoped for a deal that would enable the country to stay as close as possible to the union and its single market.
The comments by Major, who led Britain between 1990 and 1997, were published the day after his Labour successor suggested that Brexit could still be halted.
“It can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain-gain cost-benefit analysis doesn’t stack up,” Blair told the New Statesman magazine.
He added: “I’m not saying it will (be stopped), by the way, but it could. I’m just saying: until you see what it means, how do you know?”
Blair, a fervent pro-European who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007, said: “I think, in the end, it’s going to be about parliament and the country scrutinising the deal.”
May’s government intends to start formal exit talks with the EU by the end of March.
She has said parliament would likely vote on the final deal but is resisting calls to give lawmakers a say before the negotiations begin.
The Supreme Court is due next month to hear the government’s appeal against a lower court ruling that parliament must approve the triggering of Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which begins formal exit talks.
EU leaders ‘not bluffing’ over Brexit terms, warns Malta’s PM
EU leaders are not “bluffing” when they say the UK will be left without access to the single market when it leaves the bloc if there is no free movement of people, Malta’s prime minister says.
Joseph Muscat, whose country assumes the EU’s presidency in January, told the BBC “this is really and truly our position and I don’t see it changing”.
Theresa May says the UK will begin the legal process to leave the EU by March.
Mr Muscat said talks on the details of a “new relationship” could be delayed.
Much political debate has focused on the possibility of a “soft” Brexit – the UK retaining some form of membership of the single market in exchange for conceding some control over immigration – and “hard Brexit” – leaving the single market but having fuller control over migration.
But Mr Muscat said the UK and EU needed to first reach agreement on a range of other details once Mrs May triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
He said these included the bill the UK must pay before leaving, establishing what will happen to the UK-Republic of Ireland border and working out interim arrangements on issues like security.
Asked about a suggestion from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the UK could in theory stay in single market and place limits on the freedom of movement of EU citizens, Mr Muscat told the BBC “it’s just not happening”.
He added: “All of us have been pretty clear in our approach that we want a fair deal for the UK but that kind of fair deal can’t translate itself into a superior deal.
“I know that there is absolutely no bluffing from the European side, at least in the council meetings I have attended, saying ‘we will start in this position and then we will soften up’.
“No, this is really and truly our position.”
He acknowledged the talks could get “complicated” and amount to a “bit of a Catch 22 – it won’t be a situation when one side gains and the other side loses.
“We are going to lose something but there will not be a situation when the UK has a better deal than it has today”.
Mr Muscat also reiterated the view that even when a final or interim deal is struck between EU leaders and Britain, the European Parliament may decide to veto it in 2019.
His comments come days after the UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis described his meeting with the European Parliament’s chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt as a “good start”.
Mr Davis said their pre-negotiations discussion had been able to cover structures and how both sides propose to approach the Brexit talks, adding a deal was possible that was in the interests of the EU and the UK.
The UK government has said it does not want to reveal its negotiating hand on Brexit before the talks take place.
Tags: Article 50, Brexit, Britain, Conservative Party, David Davis, democracy, EU's Lisbon Treaty, European Parliament, European Union, John Major, Joseph Muscat, Malta's prime minister, Muscat, Parliament, referendum on Brexit, second referendum on Brexit, Theresa May, Tony Blair, UK, warned against the "tyranny of the majority"