Theresa May rules out second EU referendum as she insists ‘Brexit means Brexit’
- Credit: PA
Prime Minister Theresa May has set her face firmly against a second referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union, telling Cabinet colleagues that 'Brexit means Brexit' and there will be no attempt to stay in the EU 'by the back door'.
Mrs May was speaking at her country retreat Chequers as Cabinet met for the first time after the summer break.
As work continues on preparations for withdrawal negotiations, each Cabinet member has been told to use the meeting to set out what opportunities leaving the EU presents for their department.
Speaking at the start of the all-day meeting, Mrs May said: 'We'll be looking at the next steps that we need to take, and we'll also be looking at the opportunities that are now open to us as we forge a new role for the UK in the world.
'We must continue to be very clear that 'Brexit means Brexit', that we're going to make a success of it. That means there's no second referendum; no attempts to sort of stay in the EU by the back door; that we're actually going to deliver on this.'
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Mrs May said 'quite a lot of work' had already been done over the summer on preparing the way for exit negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties.
She told colleagues it was 'a very significant moment for the country, as we look ahead to the next steps that we need to take'.
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The PM said: 'We have the opportunity to forge a new positive role for the UK in the world, to make sure that we are that Government and country that works for everyone - that everyone can share in the country's prosperity.
'So there are challenges ahead but it's an important and significant moment for us and I think we have real opportunities to develop the United Kingdom and ensure that it does work for everyone in the UK.'
Despite pressure from Leave supporters for a swift departure from the EU, Mrs May has already made clear she will wait at least until the end of this year before triggering the two-year process by invoking Article 50.
Downing Street indicated on Tuesday that she is unlikely to seek parliamentary approval before taking the step, saying only that MPs would be given 'a say' on the process and declining to commit the Government to giving them a vote.
Cabinet ministers meeting at Chequers are believed to be split over whether the UK should seek continued membership of the EU single market, which is likely to involve signing up to free movement as well as making financial contributions to Brussels budgets.
Mrs May stressed that the meeting would also focus on non-EU priorities like social reform and the economy.
'We're also going to talk this morning about social reform,' she said. 'We want to be a Government and a country that works for everyone, and we'll be talking about some of the steps that we need to take in order to build that society that works for everyone.
'And I want it to be a society where it's the talent that you have and how hard you're prepared to work that determines how you get on, rather than your background.
'We'll be having an update on the state of the economy. We'll be looking at how we can work to increase productivity - that's one of the key issues that we want to address. But also how we can get tough on irresponsible behaviour in big business - again making sure that actually everyone is able to share in the country's prosperity.'
Labour shadow minister without portfolio Jonathan Ashworth said: 'After six years of Tory Government, working people are feeling the pinch, public services are under pressure and the Tories have no plan to deal with the vote to leave Europe.
'Britain needs change but Theresa May and the Tories cannot deliver it. Their austerity agenda has failed working people, they have put the needs of the few over those of the many, and they have plunged Britain in to economic uncertainty post-Brexit due to their failure to plan for the outcome.
'As Theresa May heads for her Brexit brainstorm, she should focus on one item above all others: putting working people first for a change.'