Civil servants ‘war-gaming a second Brexit referendum’

Report comes as prime minister prepares to tell MPs that 95% of EU withdrawal agreement is in place, but Irish border issue remains


By Nicholas Mairs

22 Oct 2018

Civil servants have reportedly begun contingency planning for a second Brexit referendum amid fears Theresa May is unable to get parliament to back a deal.

The Sunday Times says staff at the Department for Exiting the European Union role-played the likely actions of the Prime Minister and her de facto deputy David Lidington.

Pro-Brexit MPs Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg also featured in the “war-game” according to the paper, alongside pro-EU People’s Vote director James McGrory.

Staff are also said to have looked at whether Britain’s MEPs could remain in post for another year, following the conclusion that a vote could not take place for at least 12 months to avoid clashing with next spring’s EU elections.


A source told the paper: “Civil servants have to prepare for every eventuality and with the prime minister’s ability to command the support of parliament looking shakier by the day, it is their job to make contingency plans for every possibility, however remote, including a second referendum."

The preparations come after the latest march for a so-called People's Vote, which those involved say brought 670,000 people on to the streets of London, and ahead of the prime minister providing an update to MPs

May will tell MPs this afternoon that the terms of the withdrawal agreement are 95% complete.

She will tell the Commons that deals with Spain over Gibraltar and Cyprus over a military base have been done on top of a host of other issues that have already been ironed out. 

“All of this, from the last three weeks alone, is in addition to the agreements we had already reached,” she will say.

“This includes agreements on citizens’ rights, on the financial settlement, on the implementation period. And in Northern Ireland, agreements on the preservation of the particular rights for UK and Irish citizens.

“Taking all of this together, 95% of the withdrawal agreement and its protocols are now settled.”

Read the most recent articles written by Nicholas Mairs - EU leaders agree to 31 January Brexit extension


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