UK minister raises possibility of fresh Brexit vote

LONDON (Agencies) – A senior British minister has raised the possibility of a second Brexit referendum if MPs cannot agree on the way forward when they vote on Prime Minister Theresa May s deal next month.Work and pensions minister Amber Rudd said there could be a “plausible argument” for holding another referendum if MPs reject the deal and cannot agree an alternative strategy.”I don t want a  people s vote , or a referendum in general,” she told ITV television on Wednesday evening.”But if parliament absolutely failed to reach a consensus, I could see there would be a plausible argument for it.”Her remarks were welcomed by pro-European campaigners, who have been pushing for a new vote with the goal of reversing Brexit.Labour MP Owen Smith, who supports the anti-Brexit group Best for Britain, said Rudd s concession was a “massive moment”.Rudd, who opposed Brexit in the 2016 referendum, conceded that having another vote would “distress many of my colleagues” in the governing Conservative party.May has repeatedly ruled out this option, saying it would only cause more division and may not resolve the question.Asked on Thursday if a second referendum was plausible, her spokesman said: “No.”He said May was “focused on winning the vote on the deal that has been agreed”.Earlier this month, May postponed a vote in the House of Commons on the withdrawal deal she struck with the EU in November, fearing a huge defeat as many of her own MPs oppose it.She is seeking further clarifications from Brussels on arrangements relating to the Irish border, and has said the vote would take place the week of Jan 14This is just weeks before Britain is due to leave the European Union on Mar 29.The government on Thursday confirmed MPs would resume debating the deal on Jan 9, with three days currently scheduled for discussions.But it did not set a date for the vote itself.The main opposition Labour party has accused May of “running down the clock” to try to force MPs to back her deal rather than risk Britain leaving the EU with no arrangements in place.Rudd s cabinet colleague, Commons leader Andrea Leadsom – a Brexit enthusiast – said another referendum would be “unacceptable” – but confirmed she too was looking at what happened next if May s deal failed.In an interview on BBC radio, she suggested the option of a “managed no deal”, which would see side agreements in areas such as aviation, road haulage and tourist travel.”There could be a further deal that looks at a more minimalist approach that allows us to leave with some kind of deal and some kind of implementation period that avoids a cliff edge, that avoids uncertainty for businesses and travellers and so on,” she said.Asked about this suggestion, May s spokesman said: “This is not something that is available.”

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