London – Leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage has walked back from his suggestions that Britain should hold a second referendum on EU membership.
Hours after arguing that another vote would silence those “whinging and whining” who are against leaving the bloc, and with the idea drawing immediate support from pro-EU politicians, he sought to clarify his comments and reversed course.
“To be clear, I do not want a second referendum, but I fear one may be forced upon the country by parliament,” Farage wrote in an article on the Daily Telegraph website on Thursday.
The former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader believes British lawmakers will reject the “unattractive” deal to be offered by the EU, and then try to force another public vote.
“That is how deep my distrust is for career politicians,” he wrote.
“This poses a big question for Leavers. Do we stick with the view that the result will stand or acknowledge the fact that we face this potential threat?”
– ‘Blair can just disappear’ –
Earlier Thursday Farage, one of the driving forces behind the June 2016 referendum, told a British television panel show that pro-Europeans such as former prime minister Tony Blair “will never ever ever give up”.
“They will go on whinging and whining and moaning all the way through this process,” he added.
“So maybe, just maybe, I’m reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum on EU membership,” Farage said.
He predicted the percentage that would vote to leave the European Union in another vote would be “very much bigger than it was last time around”.
“And we may just finish the whole thing off and Blair can just disappear off into total obscurity.”
The Liberal Democrats and other pro-EU opposition politicians have called continually for a second referendum, arguing that British voters did not know the full implications of leaving the EU when they voted in the 2016 referendum.
Many of them reacted quickly in support of Farage‘s proposal, expressing confidence about winning the second time around.
“For perhaps the first time in his life, Nigel Farage is making a valid point,” said Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign group.
Tom Brake, Brexit spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “Farage shouldn’t be so confident of winning. People are now far more aware of the costs of Brexit and the fabrications of the Leave campaign.”
Andrew Adonis, who resigned as head of a government-backed infrastructure commission last month, said: “So Nigel Farage wants a referendum on Mrs May’s Brexit deal. I agree. Bring it on.”
UKIP said they were still opposed to a second referendum, although party leader Henry Bolton said he was confident Brexit would win by a bigger margin if another vote were held.
“To hold such a referendum would be to call into question the decisive importance of the largest democratic exercise ever held by this country,” Bolton said.
British voters in the 2016 referendum chose to leave the EU by 52 percent to 48 percent.
Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out a second vote.