George Osborne has said that MPs are being asked “to deliver something impossible” in leaving the EU without damaging Britain, calling for a long delay in the Brexit process.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme before the People’s Vote demonstration, where hundreds of thousands of people will march through central London on Saturday, the former chancellor said: “If you ask politicians to deliver something impossible don’t be surprised if they cannot.
“As it happens, if I was a hard Brexiteer … I’d just get out and rip the plaster off and endure the pain, but it’s a lot of pain and a big shock. The best outcome now would be a long delay, and it’s not the worst thing in the world to ask people to vote for some MEPs, and certainly better than stockpiling medicine and turning Kent into a car park.
“So I think the best outcome is a long delay where we rethink how we deliver on the referendum result and we try and find a majority for a compromise Brexit agreement and possibly have a second referendum.”
Osborne was asked about calling Theresa May a “dead woman walking”, to which he said: “After that election she called [in 2017] … I never thought she could recover authority and I said it at the moment.”
The education minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “If parliament decides to vote down the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement, then I think it would be political meltdown and parliament would have failed.”
Zahawi also said he was not prepared to tell his constituents that the UK would take part in the EU elections. “Each and every one of us will have to ask ourselves the question: ‘Am I prepared to go back to my constituents and say we’re not leaving the EU, we’re going to go for a much longer extension, and we’re going to take part in the European elections?’ I’m not prepared to do that. I don’t think the prime minister is prepared to do that.”
The comments came as hundreds of thousands of people head to London on Saturday to march on parliament calling for the public to be given a final say on Brexit. Protesters will travel from all over the UK and further afield for the People’s Vote campaign’s Put it to the People march, after a similar rally in October drew crowds of 700,000. The march will move from Park Lane to Parliament Square from midday, followed by a rally in front of parliament.
Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, is expected to tell crowds that he believes the only way to resolve the current impasse is “for people themselves to sign it off”.