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Nigel Farage U-turns on his call for second EU referendum: 'I don't want one but it may be forced upon us'

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 12/01/2018 Francesca Gillett

Nigel Farage wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Independent Print Limited Nigel Farage has backtracked after calling for a second EU referendum to “kill off” the Brexit debate.

The former Ukip leader and champion for Brexit has attempted to clarify his original comments, made during an interview Thursday morning’s The Wright Stuff, saying: “To be clear, I do not want a second referendum.”

Prominent Remain campaigners praised Mr Farage for his remarks, welcoming his challenge that Brits would back Brexit with an even bigger majority than June 2016 with the words: “Bring it on!”

Video: Nigel Farage calls for second EU referendum (Press Association)

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Senior Ukip figures refused to back Mr Farage’s calls for a re-run of the divisive vote.

But writing in the Telegraph, the leading Brexiteer has said although he does not want a second vote, he fears one may be inevitable following a poor EU offer on the final deal.

Mr Farage said: "To be clear, I do not want a second referendum, but I fear one may be forced upon the country by Parliament. That is how deep my distrust is for career politicians.

"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?"

He also clarified his comments on his LBC radio show on Thursday, telling listeners: "The last thing I've ever wanted is another referendum on this issue.

"But, I began to realise, since Monday, when I went to meet Mr Barnier that it's just not as simple as that."

Mr Farage, 53, went on to say he believes the EU will give Britain a bad final deal ahead of quitting the bloc.

Downing Street ruled out a fresh vote on EU membership but bookies have cut the odds of a poll in 2019 to 5-1.

Mr Farage, who played a pivotal role in securing the vote to leave the EU, suggested a second vote would draw a line under criticism by key Remainers, such as Tony Blair, Lib Dem former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg and Labour ex-cabinet minister Lord Adonis.

Appearing on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff, he said: "What is for certain is that the Cleggs, the Blairs, the Adonises will never ever ever give up. They will go on whinging and whining and moaning all the way through this process.

"So maybe, just maybe, I'm reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum on EU membership... unless you want to have a multiple-choice referendum which would confuse people.

"I think that if we had a second referendum on EU membership we would kill it off for a generation.

"The percentage that would vote to leave next time would be very much bigger than it was last time round. And we may just finish the whole thing off. And Blair can disappear off into total obscurity."

Businessman Arron Banks, a close ally of Mr Farage who poured funds into Ukip and one of the Leave campaigns, said the vote would have to be re-run.

He tweeted: "Alas we always knew the Tories couldn't be trusted to deliver Brexit. The cabinet is solidly Remain and this fight will have to be re run."

But Ukip leader Henry Bolton said: "Ukip policy on a second referendum remains unchanged. The party opposes a second referendum."

He went on: "To hold such a referendum would be to call into question the decisive importance of the largest democratic exercise ever held by this country and the unambiguous mandate the people gave the Government on that day - the mandate take us out of the European Union.

"Such a second referendum would set a precedent for revisiting any democratic decision made in future; it would undermine the fabric of our democratic principles and would weaken the clarity and effectiveness of democratic decision."

Remain campaigners had welcomed Mr Farage's earlier comments.

Lord Adonis said: "So Nigel Farage wants a referendum on Mrs May's Brexit deal. I agree. Bring it on."

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign for close ties with the EU, said: "For perhaps the first time in his life, Nigel Farage is making a valid point.

"In a democracy like ours, the British people have every right to keep an open mind about Brexit.

"If the Brexit that is delivered does not match up to the promises of Leave campaigners - with no sign of £350 million extra per week for the NHS but a whopping great divorce bill of £39 billion - then everyone is entitled to ask if this is the right choice for our country."

Lord Malloch Brown, chairman of Best for Britain, which opposes Brexit, said: "A second referendum: my message is clear - bring it on.

"This is something that the country needs. Every day we see the disaster of Brexit as we see its impact on our economy, jobs, communities and our society."

Prime Minister Theresa May has previously insisted a second referendum would be a betrayal of voters and Downing Street said there would be no re-run.

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