Justine Greening, the former education secretary of Prime Minister Theresa May’s first cabinet and a supporter of the Remain campaign, has called for a second referendum on EU membership despite many of her arguments mirroring those of Brexit hardliners.
In an interview with the BBC, Greening said that the prime minister’s proposal was a “clever attempt at a compromise” that satisfies no-one. Greening said she views the proposal as the result of a stalemate in the negotiations between the parliament and the cabinet and one that can only be addressed with a new the poll.
Greening is challenging May’s White Paper that was meant to be a compromise proposal on Brexit, siding with hardline Leave campaigners and calling it “the worse of two worlds” in an article with the Sunday Times where she argues that there is no point leaving if the UK remains tied to EU regulation, a position that hardline Brexit backbenchers now support.
Rather than calling for a harder version of Brexit, Greening now wants a second referendum that would present three options: a clean break hard Brexit, a soft Brexit, or the option to remain in the EU. Greening is also calling for a first and second preference vote, to ensure that any final decision enjoys more than 50% of popular support.
The proposal for a more than two-choice ballot echoes views expressed by former Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair is unique in that it is the most high profile call for a new referendum from a Conservative MP other than Kenneth Clark and Anna Soubry.
Greening is arguing that a second poll could gain traction among both Leave and Remain campaigners, including hardline Brexit champion and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who has argued in favour of a second referendum on EU membership since January because of his belief that a second victory for Brexit leave would “kill the issue” for a generation.
A second referendum would also be the means by which to avoid the emergence of a Jeremy Corbyn government which would be “disastrous for the economy”, said Greening.
Prominent Leave campaigners, including MP Bernard Jenkin, agree with the criticism directed at May but disagree with a second referendum. Senior Labour figures that are critical of Corbyn are also campaigning on a similar platform,.
Hardline Brexit MPs are moving to reaffirm certain red lines in parliament by calling for an amendment to May’s proposal which would legally block the UK from collecting tariffs for the EU. This amendment effectively undermines plans for an effective “combined” customs area with no border checks for goods.