But as UK Prime Minister Theresa May ended her most tumultuous week since coming into power, and parliament remained gridlocked over her withdrawal agreement, some prominent Conservative party politicians were reportedly arguing that the only way out of this political impasse is to bring the question back to the people.
What was once considered unthinkable is now, according to the Sunday Times, being discussed, with some of May’s most senior allies preparing for a second referendum.
The Sunday Times also reported May’s Chief of Staff Gavin Barwell told Cabinet ministers that a second referendum was “the only way forward.” Both men later distanced themselves from the report on Sunday, with Barwell taking to Twitter to deny the claims.
May also criticized the report, saying in a statement that “another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.”
The Prime Minister’s statement came after she hit out on Sunday at her predecessor Tony Blair’s own calls for a second referendum. May condemned his call as an “insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.” In response, Blair said he was speaking in the national interest and in the interests of democracy.
“Far from being anti-democratic it would be the opposite, as indeed many senior figures in her party from past and present have been saying,” he said according to Press Association. “What is irresponsible, however, is to try to steamroller MPs into accepting a deal they genuinely think is a bad one with the threat that if they do not fall into line, the government will have the country crash out without a deal.”
But even if May and the opposition leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn are united in their distaste for a second referendum — at least publicly — it is increasingly looking like a viable option.
British bookmaker William Hill estimated the probability of a second referendum at 54%. “We think she (May) is out of options and the most palatable of the two remaining options (which includes revoking Article 50) is a people’s vote,” spokesperson Rupert Adams told CNN.
Risk of no deal
By Thursday, Brussels had refused to give May concessions to make her package palatable to British lawmakers. Brexit is more deadlocked than ever; and with just over 100 days before the March 29, 2019 deadline to leave, time to find an alternative to her deal is vanishing. What this risks is crashing out of the EU without a deal, which experts agree would be catastrophic for the British economy.