Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister of Britain, said in an interview that E.U. backers should pressure U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to give the British people a second vote on Brexit after negotiations with the European Union are complete.
“The lifeblood of democracy is the ability to change your mind,” Mr. Clegg, the former leader of the pro-E.U. Liberal Democrats, told Handelsblatt. “It might feel premature now when the negotiations have not started yet. But someone has to start to make the case.”
Britain is set to formally apply for an exit from the European Union, known as invoking Article 50, by the end of March. The two sides in theory then have two years to reach a deal – 18 months if parliaments are to be given time to ratify the results – before Britain must leave, though the two-year deadline can be pushed back further if both sides agree.
The talks are likely to be extremely complicated. Diplomatic sources say the E.U.’s 27 remaining members will formally demand at an April summit that Brussels’ negotiating strategy require Britain’s outstanding financial obligations to the European Union – estimated at €60 billion – to be settled before the two sides move to discuss a future trade deal. London is likely to reject the move.
Mr. Clegg, a Liberal Democrat MP, said he’s working behind the scenes to consolidate the Remain campaign to mount a more effective opposition to Ms. May’s push for a so-called hard Brexit, which would see Britain leave both the European Union and the single market for goods and services.
Mr. Clegg said Brexit supporters are naive to believe that Britain can negotiate both an exit from the European Union as well as new trade and security arrangements in just 18 months time. He said little will happen with Brexit negotiations until Germany has a new government after elections in the fall, ultimately leaving just 12 months to hammer out a deal.
“If history is any guide, that is an impossible thing to do,” Mr. Clegg said.
Read the full interview on Wednesday’s Handelsblatt Global.