UK government refuses to say if it has taken legal advice on second Brexit referendum

May has repeatedly ruled out holding a second referendum following the vote two years ago to leave the EU.

Published: 10th September 2018 06:14 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th September 2018 06:16 PM   |  A+A-

British Prime Minister Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May (File | AP)


LONDON: The British government has refused to confirm whether it has taken legal advice on holding a second referendum on the final Brexit deal, saying revealing such information would harm its negotiating position in talks with Brussels.

The Brexit department, which oversees the negotiations on Britain's departure from the European Union next year, made the comment in response to a Reuters query submitted under the Freedom of Information law.

ALSO READ | Boris Johnson predicts European Union 'victory' in Brexit talks

With less than seven months until Brexit day and Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plans under fire, some lawmakers and business leaders are increasingly arguing for people to have a final say on any deal with Brussels.

May has repeatedly ruled out holding a second referendum following the vote two years ago to leave the EU.

However, several lawmakers in her Conservative Party back the idea of what is known as a "people's vote", and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure to voice his support.

Britain's Trades Union Congress, a group of 48 labour unions, added to the pressure on Sunday, with General Secretary Frances O'Grady saying it would back a referendum if May fails to get a deal that will support workers.

Asked by Reuters what legal advice it had received this year on holding a second referendum, the Brexit department said there was a public interest in refusing to confirm or deny whether it had such information.

"There is a very strong public interest in the most effective pursuance of the UK's national interests abroad," the department said in a letter.

"It is necessary to consider whether the act of confirming or denying whether we hold information would be likely to prejudice the government's negotiating position, which would be detrimental to the UK's relationships with other states, and with European institutions, and would prejudice the promotion and protection of the UK's interests abroad.

" The department said it had concluded "the public interest favours maintaining the exclusion" of its duty to reveal whether or not it holds such information.

It gave the same answer to a request for information on whether it had taken legal advice on the reversibility of Article 50, the notice of the intention to leave the EU.

Brexit minister Dominic Raab said last week that the prospect of a second referendum would invite Brussels to offer Britain the "very worst terms" in any Brexit deal.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but has yet to reach a deal with Brussels on the terms of its departure.

May has said members of parliament will get to vote on whether to accept any final deal. In the June 2016 referendum, 51.9 per cent backed leaving the EU, while 48.1 per cent favoured staying.

Opinion polls show Britons remain divided over Brexit, though some recent surveys have shown a swing towards support for staying in the EU.

A YouGov poll, conducted July 31-August 7 and commissioned by the pro-referendum "People's Vote" campaign, found 45 per cent of voters supported holding a new referendum whatever the outcome of talks with the EU, while 34 per cent opposed it.

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp