Brexit architect Nigel Farage said Friday that Britain’s exit from the European Union will likely be delayed — and a second, do-over referendum is now a distinct possibility.
The former UKIP leader told Sky News that the current parliamentary deadlock over a withdrawal deal meant that Brexit would not take place on the scheduled date of March 29.
“I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50,” he said, referring to the two-year window in which the terms of the divorce were to be settled.
“There could be another referendum,” he added. Calls have been growing for a so-called “people’s vote” to revisit the decision to leave, as the withdrawal date draws nearer with no deal with the EU in place.
Britain has been at a Brexit impasse since Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU suffered a crushing defeat in Parliament Tuesday. She then narrowly survived a no-confidence vote, lessening the prospects for a general election.
With the deadline to pull together a viable Brexit plan rapidly approaching, the government and opposition have failed to agree even to cross-party talks on finding a solution — with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisting May must rule out the prospect of a “no deal” Brexit before he’ll talk. May has called that “an impossible condition.”
If no solution is reached, Britain will drop out of the European Union on March 29 without a deal — an economically disastrous outcome for the country — or will be forced to delay Brexit, potentially calling a national election or a second referendum.
Despite the growing call from sections of his party to push for a second referendum, Corbyn has only said he may consider it, although he would prefer a general election.
May has said a second referendum would harm the public’s faith in democracy. If a second referendum were to be held, it would take a year to organize, according to government guidance shown to MPs Wednesday.
Amid the Brexit chaos, a group of high-profile Germans — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s likely successor — signed an open letter published in The Times newspaper Friday urging Britain to rethink its decision to leave.
The letter, signed by a group of of prominent Germans from politics, business and the arts, praised Britain’s embrace of Germany after World War II, and cited Germans’ affection for British pubs, Christmas pantomimes and humor.
The top signature was that of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel’s successor as head of the Christian Democratic Union, and the favorite to fill her shoes as chancellor once she stands down.
“Britons should know: from the bottom of our hearts, we want them to stay,” read the letter.
According to a poll released Thursday, a majority of Britons share that sentiment. The YouGov survey of 1070 respondents found 56 percent would vote to remain if a second referendum were held, while 44 percent would vote leave, once those who were undecided or wouldn’t vote were excluded.
The results indicated the highest level of support for remaining in the EU since the 2016 referendum was held. Unsurprisingly, it also found a high level of support for holding a second referendum — with 47 percent in favor of a do-over vote, 36 percent against, and 16 percent undecided.
Cover image: Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage speaks during the Brexit: Let's go WTO rally by the Leave Means Leave Brexit Campaign in Central Hall on January 17, 2019 in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)