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Second Brexit referendum 'may be only option' - Gummer

PUBLISHED: 08:34 04 January 2019

Ben Gummer

Ben Gummer

PA Archive/PA Images

Former Ipswich MP and Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer has said that a second referendum might be the only way out of the Brexit quagmire if Parliament cannot agree on a way forward.

He said that a “no deal” Brexit would be opposed by the vast majority of MPs and if Parliament rejected the Prime Minister’s deal and then was then unable to find an alternative solution it might be necessary to go back to the people.

Mr Gummer said Parliament had a duty to step in if the government was unable to get its deal through: “If Parliament cannot do that then we will have to go back to the people.”

He is not envious of his former colleagues – the vast majority of whom believe they are making decisions that will make their constituents poorer.

He told the BBC PM programme on Radio Four: “This is a curious position for Members of Parliament to be in.

“I think it’s probably unique in modern Parliamentary history, because Members of Parliament are being asked to walk through the division lobbies to make the country, and their constituents, permanently poorer and less secure, not just in one generation, but in two or three, and MPs have never been asked to do that before.”

Speaking later Mr Gummer said: “If you look at what has happened over the last two years, the rate of growth of this country has been 1.5% less a year than it would have been had we not voted in this way. That means the government is £26bn a year less well off than it would be. That is half the defence budget and a fifth of the NHS budget.

“Without Brexit, we would have almost paid off the deficit and the age of austerity would be over. This decision means everyone will be poorer.”

Mr Gummer also warned that the March 29 deadline would not see the end of the Brexit debate. He warned: “This is an issue that will dominate political life for 10 or 15 years. During my time at the Cabinet Office it dominated 90% of our time.

“I feel really quite sorry for my former colleagues, and people like Sandy Martin (who beat him in 2017) who went into Parliament to make a real difference to their constituents and have ended up just being totally bogged down in the Brexit debate.

“And there is no chance of this ending. It will go on and on and on dominating British political life.”

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