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John Major raises possibility of 2nd Brexit referendum

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former British prime minister John Major

Former British prime minister John Major has expressed the likelihood of a second referendum on Brexit, saying that those who voted to remain in the European Union (EU) should not suffer the “tyranny of the majority”.

Major made the remarks on Friday, saying there is a “perfectly credible” case for a second referendum on leaving the 28-member bloc and that those who cast a Remain vote in the June referendum should have their say in debates over the terms of departing from the EU.

"I hear the argument that the 48 percent of people who voted to stay should have no say in what happens, I find that very difficult to accept,” the former British premier said.

“The tyranny of the majority has never applied in a democracy and it should not apply in this particular democracy," he noted.

Asked if the British public should be given another say on the terms of the withdrawal deal, Major said, "That is a matter for parliament. You can make a perfectly credible case for it.”

Referring to the possibility of a second referendum, he further noted, "I don't know whether that will happen. I think we need to see how things pan out before we decide exactly what needs to be done."

Major, who was in office between 1990 and 1997, said he agreed that Britain would not remain a full member of the EU but still hoped for a deal that would enable the country to stay as close as possible to the bloc and its single market.

Economic growth in the UK is expected to slow significantly next year, due to uncertainty over the Brexit vote.

Experts have warned that leaving the EU will severely hurt London’s position as a financial hub, unless the UK decides to keep its access to the single EU market by loosening its stance on immigration.

Major joins forces with Blair 

Britain's Conservative former prime minister John Major (L) speaks alongside Labour former prime minister Tony Blair (R) as the two visit the University of Ulster in Derry (Londonderry), Northern Ireland, on June 9, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Major made the comments a day after his successor, Tony Blair, suggested that Brexit could still be halted.

In an interview with the New Statesman magazine on Thursday, Blair said Brexit “can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain-gain cost-benefit analysis doesn't stack up.”

Such a turnaround could arise in one of two ways, both of them hinging on negotiations over access to the EU’s single market, Blair told the magazine, referring to two possible options of soft and hard Brexit.

“Either you get maximum access to the single market, in which case you’ll end up accepting a significant number of the rules on immigration, on payment into the budget, on the European court’s jurisdiction. People may then say, ‘Well, hang on, why are we leaving then?’” he said.

“Or alternatively, you’ll be out of the single market and the economic pain may be very great because, beyond doubt, if you do that you’ll have years, maybe a decade, of economic restructuring,” he added.

The former Labour Party premier concluded, "I think, in the end, it's going to be about parliament and the country scrutinizing the deal."

The remarks by the two former high-ranking officials are in sharp contrast with those by Prime Minister Theresa May, who has repeatedly said that “Brexit means Brexit” and that she’ll respect the referendum result.

May has said she would start the two-year process of leaving the EU in coming March.

A High Court ruling last month said the government did not have the authority to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty,the formal process for starting Brexit, without parliamentary approval.

In December, the Supreme Court will hear the government's challenge to the ruling.

British protestors hold placards and a Union Flag during an anti-European Union (EU) demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London, on November 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Pro-Brexit voices heard in London 

Meanwhile, Britons on Wednesday held a rally in London, demanding action to speed up the process of leaving the 28-member bloc.

Some 200 demonstrators, many draped in British flags, gathered outside the UK parliament to urge lawmakers invoke Article 50, which formally starts Brexit negotiations.

"We are here to remind our elected representatives that the country voted to leave. Get on with it," a participant in the pro-Brexit rally said.

Many in the crowd said they were disillusioned and betrayed by the process so far.

The Wednesday demonstration prompted May once again to reiterate that Article 50 would be triggered by March.

"The vote was held, the turnout was high, the public gave their verdict. There must be no second referendum, no attempt to weasel out of this. This is the government that will deliver on the vote of the British people," she told parliament.

In a landmark referendum held on June 23, nearly 52 percent of British voters, amounting to more than 17 million citizens, opted to leave the EU, a decision that sent shock waves throughout the world.

Those in favor of a British withdrawal from the EU argued that outside the bloc, London would be better positioned to conduct its own trade negotiations, better able to control immigration and free from what they believe to be excessive EU regulations and bureaucracy.

Those in favor of remaining in the bloc believed that leaving it would risk the UK's prosperity, diminish its influence over world affairs, and result in trade barriers between the UK and the EU.          

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