UK Politics

Brexit: David Miliband puts case for new referendum

David Miliband, left, speaks to the BBC's Nick Robinson
Image caption David Miliband was speaking to the BBC's Nick Robinson for the Political Thinking podcast

Ex-Foreign Secretary David Miliband has called for a fresh Brexit referendum, saying it should not only be an option "when everything else has failed".

The one-time Labour leadership contender, who is no longer an MP, said there was a democratic, economic and social case for another public poll.

People's Vote campaigners bidding for a new referendum believe they will fail without support from Jeremy Corbyn.

But the Labour leader is pressing forward with his party's Brexit vision.

Mr Corbyn's bid to change Theresa May's Brexit plan proposes a public vote but only on "a deal or proposition" that is supported by a majority of MPs.

And it is thought his amendment to the prime minister's proposal on the next move in the Brexit process - one of 14 tabled by MPs - will struggle to win cross-party backing.

Instead, Mr Miliband said, Labour should throw its weight behind a more widely supported proposal from backbencher Yvette Cooper.

It aims to delay Britain's exit from the EU for an unspecified period beyond the current date of 29 March to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

"What she's saying is it's our job is to defend the country from danger and she sees real danger in no deal, rightly in my view," Mr Miliband told BBC News's Nick Robinson, for the Political Thinking podcast.

Many MPs fear leaving the EU without a formal withdrawal agreement would cause chaos at ports and disruption for businesses, although the option is supported by some Brexiteer MPs who believe this view is exaggerated.

'Last man standing'

People's Vote representatives said, on Thursday, they would support efforts to delay Brexit but suggested that - without a parliamentary majority for any version of Brexit - a further public poll would eventually be inevitable.

However, Mr Miliband argued that a public poll should be considered before it was the "last man standing".

"There is a democratic case for a second referendum," he told BBC News. "There is an economic case, as well as a social case.

"It starts with the fact that the Brexit people were promised is not on offer and so it's right that they should have the chance... to affirm their vote now that the details are known."

Mrs May faces widespread opposition from MPs of all parties to the withdrawal agreement and a framework for the future relationship she negotiated with the EU.

But she has repeatedly ruled out a further referendum, saying it's Parliament's job to deliver the will of the people, and insists Britain will leave the EU on 29 March.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said delaying the Brexit process would be "worse than no deal" and accused pro-Remain MPs of trying to "steal Brexit" from the people.

And prominent Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, one of Mr Miliband's successors at the Foreign Office, has said it would be "shameful" to delay Brexit.

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