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Theresa May’s official spokesperson has plunged the government into yet another hilarious bind after responding to the Chancellor’s claim that a second referendum is a “perfectly credible” option by arguing that it is no longer viable because it has ‘already been voted down three times in Parliament‘.
Last night on ITV’s Peston programme, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, made the case for a second referendum being put before MPs, saying that there is a credible case for a confirmatory referendum and it “deserves to be tested in Parliament“:
Chancellor @PhilipHammondUK says there is a credible case for a confirmatory referendum and it deserves to be tested in Parliament.
— Peston (@itvpeston) April 3, 2019
However, Mrs May’s official spokesperson quickly slapped down the Chancellor’s comments, ruling a confirmatory vote out because ‘it has already been rejected three times in Parliament’.
The response from Downing Street on the supposed unviability of a second referendum being put on the table comes despite the fact that Mrs May’s Brexit Withdrawal Bill has itself been voted down three times by MPs.
Moreover, despite the fact that May’s deal has been voted down three times, the government still view her deal as a viable option, and are said to be intent on bringing it back before MPs for a fourth vote in the coming days.
Reporting the deeply ironic comments from Number 10, ITV’s Political Correspondent, Paul Braund, tweeted:
“NEW: PM’s spokesman bats away Chancellor’s claim on
#peston that second referendum is a “perfectly credible proposition”. No 10 says it has been rejected in Parliament 3 times. But not totally ruling out a People’s Vote being discussed during talks with Corbyn.”
NEW: PM’s spokesman bats away Chancellor’s claim on #peston that second referendum is a “perfectly credible proposition”. No 10 says it has been rejected in Parliament 3 times. But not totally ruling out a People’s Vote being discussed during talks with Corbyn.
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) April 4, 2019
Unsurprisingly, given the government’s stance on Mrs May’s thrice-rejected deal, Downing Street’s argument that an option which has already been rejected 3 times in Parliament cannot be viable came in for significant claims of hypocrisy.
The Managing Director of the Independent Think Tank, Global Britain, Peter Starkings, replied by tweeting:
“No10 spokesperson says People’s Vote not credible because “it has been rejected in Parliament 3 times.” I mean, come on…”
No10 spokesperson says People's Vote not credible because "it has been rejected in Parliament 3 times." I mean, come on… https://t.co/MmBGBNuT9A
— Peter Starkings (@peter_starkings) April 4, 2019
And many of the replies to Starkings’ tweet echoed his sentiment:
— Sam (@SamCatStaff) April 4, 2019
— Dale Bennett (@DaleBennett91) April 4, 2019
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are currently engaged in talks to find a compromised solution to the ongoing Brexit impasse, and it is believed that a confirmatory public vote is one of the options the Labour leader has discussed with the Prime Minister’s team.
Following the first round of talks, Mr Corbyn described them as “constructive”, but had also signalled his frustration that there had not been as much movement from the Prime Minister on her red lines as he had expected.
It is widely expected that no compromised deal will be agreed by the two leaders – and, if this is indeed the outcome of the talks, a set of alternative proposals – possibly including a second referendum or a confirmatory vote – will then be agreed to put before the House of Commons in round of government-led Indicative Votes.
Mrs May has already stated that the government will abide by whatever ruling Parliament determines in these votes.