A re-run of the historic 2016 EU referendum was seen by Brussels as a “credible option” for a way of breaking the bitter parliamentary deadlock und
A re-run of the historic 2016 EU referendum was seen by Brussels as a “credible option” for a way of breaking the bitter parliamentary deadlock under Theresa May. EU bureaucrats believed Remainer MPs could have forced the former prime minister’s hand to hold another vote on Britain’s membership of the bloc. Their thinking has been revealed as part of a “scene setter” prepared for Pierre Moscovici, the European economic affairs commissioner, ahead of a meeting with Tony Blair at Davos in January.
Mr Moscovici’s aides told their boss that a second Brexit vote should not be considered a “distant dream”, according to the memo.
“Since you last saw Tony Blair in Davos a year ago, the position he is defending, a second referendum on Brexit, has gone from a distant dream to which few attached such credibility, to one of the most frequently talked about possible outcomes to the current impasse,” the note said, according to news website EU Observer.
The briefing note suggested that Mr Moscovici ask the former Labour Party prime minister a series of questions about possible routes MPs could take to force a second referendum.
The list of questions included: “What in your view happens to Theresa May if Parliament forces her hand and a second referendum is called? Does she finally step down?
“How optimistic are you that in case of a second vote, Remain would win this time? I know the demographics have shifted the odds in Remain’s favour, but aren’t you concerned about a backlash and a sense of betrayal? Won’t the campaign be even uglier than in 2016??
Mr Moscovici and Mr Blair held their meeting at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos in January.
Their meeting took place shortly after Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement suffered its historic first defeat in the House of Commons.
The revelations will only fuel Boris Johnson’s allegations that Brussels is still hopeful that Remainer MPs can prevent a no-deal Brexit.
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The Prime Minister yesterday used a Facebook Q&A session to blame the “terrible collaboration” for blocking any opportunity for his predecessor’s Brexit deal to be renegotiated.
“There’s a terrible collaboration, as it were, going on between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and our European friends,” he said.
“And our European friends are not moving in their willingness to compromise, they’re not compromising at all on the withdrawal agreement even though it’s been thrown out three times, they’re sticking to every letter, every comma of the withdrawal agreement – including the backstop – because they still think Brexit can be blocked in Parliament.
“The awful thing is the longer that goes on, the more likely it is of course that we will be forced to leave with a no-deal Brexit.
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“That’s not what I want, it’s not what we’re aiming for but we need our European friends to compromise. The more they think there’s a chance that Brexit can be blocked in parliament, the more adamant they are in sticking to their position.”
The European Commission yesterday urged Mr Johnson to come forward with “concrete proposals” so that a compromise between the two parties can be reached.
A spokeswoman said: “President Juncker told Prime Minister Johnson on July 25 that we are available should the United Kingdom wish to hold talks and clarify its position in more detail.
“We are ready to analyse any concrete proposals that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement and also ready to rework the future relationship as outlined in the political declaration.
“The UK knows well that our doors are open to that effect but for the talks to progress the UK Government needs to explain its ideas on how it sees the way forward, respecting the commitments it took earlier in these negotiations.”
Senior Brussels figures have supported Mr Johnson’s stance, insisting scrapping the controversial Northern Ireland backstop will still not deliver a Commons majority.
Austria’s Brexit negotiator Gregor Schusterschitz said: “The problem is even if we were to agree to the British demands and would remove the backstop for Northern Ireland, it would by no means mean that this deal would get a majority in the British Parliament.
“In fact, it is incredibly doubtful that there will be a majority. This would mean we would have chucked the backstop into the dustbin and would still not have a deal.
“Therefore, it wouldn’t help anyone. This is exactly the problem. The key is solely in the British Parliament. Only they are capable of preventing a no-deal Brexit.”
Mr Schusterschitz suggested that any tech solutions to replace the backstop might not be ready for at least 15 years.