politics

Nigel Farage, Champion of Brexit, Backs a Second Referendum

Updated on
  • Farage becomes unlikely ally of those trying to reverse Brexit
  • May has ruled out a second plebiscite on the split from EU
“I think if we had a second referendum on EU membership we’d kill it off for a generation," Farage said.

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Nigel Farage, the former U.K. Independence Party leader and one of the architects of the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, said he now thinks the nation should have a second vote on the issue.

His call was backed by Arron Banks, a key donor of the Leave campaign, and welcomed by politicians on the other end of the Brexit spectrum who are openly trying to reverse the electorate’s decision of June 2016.

Farage said he wants to settle the question for a generation and silence the growing voices calling for Brexit to be abandoned. “Maybe, just maybe, we should have a second referendum,” he tweeted to his 1.1 million followers.

“I think if we had a second referendum on EU membership we’d kill it off for a generation,’’ Farage said on Channel Five chat show The Wright Stuff Thursday. “The percentage that would vote to leave next time would be very much bigger than it was last time.’’

His comments make him an unlikely ally of Tony Blair, the former prime minister, and other Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians who are fighting to give voters a chance to change their mind. Farage slammed Blair -- who is unpopular across the political spectrum in Britain -- and his allies, who have become more outspoken in recent weeks.

Lord Adonis

Andrew Adonis, a Labour member of the House of Lords who has been increasingly vocal in his opposition to Brexit since resigning as Prime Minister Theresa May’s infrastructure czar last month, welcomed Farage’s comments.

“So Nigel Farage wants a referendum on Mrs May’s Brexit deal. I agree. Bring it on!” he said on Twitter.

At the very least, Farage’s comments could shift the debate about a second vote. Polls show a majority do want to have a vote on the deal May brings back from Brussels, but it’s not clear how an election-weary public would react to being hauled back to the voting booths again. The arguments of the Remain camp, dubbed “project fear” by Leave campaigners, have been undermined in the eyes of some voters as the economy hasn’t suffered the catastrophic consequences of Brexit that were predicted. The economy is now benefiting from a decline in the pound and its continued access to the single market until it actually leaves the bloc.

Read more: ‘Rebel Commander’ Grieve’s Case for Second Referendum on Brexit

Half of Britons support a referendum on the final Brexit deal that the U.K. reaches with the EU, according to a poll by Survation in December. Another study showed this month that 78 percent of the opposition Labour Party’s members want a second plebiscite, although among Conservatives the figure is just 14 percent.

The Labour leadership isn’t calling for a second vote now, saying that to do so would undermine Britain’s negotiating position.

Surveys give varying results on how Britons would vote if they got another chance. A poll for the Independent in December showed a majority would vote to remain -- the biggest lead for the “In” camp since the referendum in June 2016. Polls also suggest that more voters think it was “wrong” to vote to leave than “right.”

While Farage is no longer leader of UKIP and the party has no seats in Parliament, he remains an influential figure who can shift the debate in the U.K. He has his own radio show, and an image in some circles as a straight-talking champion of common sense. He also has ties to President Donald Trump, who tweeted Farage would be great U.K. ambassador to Washington.

Read more: The Road to Reversing Brexit, Some Predictions From Last Year

May has ruled out another vote, saying said such a move would be a “betrayal’’ of the 52 percent of Britons who’d voted for Brexit. Her spokesman James Slack said Thursday “we will not be having a second referendum.”

— With assistance by Tim Ross

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