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Spanish prime minister backs second Brexit referendum

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez (Getty)

The prime minister of Spain has become the most senior European politician to advocate a second Brexit referendum.

Pedro Sanchez, who described himself as a “militant pro-European”, has branded Brexit a sign of “self-absorption” and said he hopes the decision “can be reconsidered in the future.”

In an interview with Politico he claimed it is not “democratic” to leave the EU after a referendum with such a close margin between Leave and Remain – 52% to 48%.

He also gave the prime minister a bit of advice about how to deal with the situation: “If I was Theresa May, I would call a second referendum — no doubt.”

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Pointing to the 700,000-strong protest in favour of a ‘People’s Vote’, Sanchez added: “I’d like to see the British government calling a second referendum. I don’t mean now, but in the future, so that it can come back to the EU. In another way, but back into the EU.”

The socialist is the EU’s newest leader, having taken power in June after his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, lost a vote of confidence in the Spanish parliament.

As well as strident support for the EU, Sanchez’s position is motivated by concern about the potential repercussions for Spain’s constitutional situation.

He expressed concern that Brexit would lead to a second Scottish independence poll, which Spanish politicians believe would boost the campaign for Catalan independence.

Prime minister Theresa May in conversation with her Spanish counterpart at a European summit in October (Getty)

Despite calling for a second Brexit referendum, Sanchez told Politico: “All these kind of referendums do is fragment … and polarise societies.”

Sanchez is only the third European leader to publicly call for a second Brexit referendum, following on from statements made by his Czech and Maltese counterparts in September.

However, Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat revealed there is “almost unanimous” support for the idea among EU27 heads of government in private.

“I think most of us would welcome a situation where there is the possibility of the British people putting things into perspective, seeing what has been negotiated, seeing the options and then deciding once and for all,” said Muscat.

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The latest international support for a second referendum comes after Jo Johnson called for a ‘People’s Vote’ when he resigned as rail minister on Friday.

And Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said on Monday that “Brexit can be stopped” – contradicting the position his party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, set out in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel at the weekend.

Speaking to Sky News, Starmer said “all options must be on the table, including a public vote” if a Brexit deal is voted down by MPs and the prime minister refuses to call a general election.

He said: “That’s the clear position and Jeremy’s signed up to that, I’m signed up to that, and that was the position that was passed at Labour Party conference.”

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