Burnham: delay Brexit to avoid no deal

5 September 2018, 11:35 | Updated: 5 September 2018, 11:38

Andy Burnham

Brexit should be postponed in order to avoid crashing out of the European Union without a deal, Andy Burnham says.

The Greater Manchester Mayor believes that the Article 50 negotiation period should be extended beyond March 2019 as a contingency measure if the only alternative was a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour former Cabinet minister also suggests a second referendum could be required if no agreement is reached between the UK and Brussels.

Mr Burnham is using a major speech in Westminster to set out his plan, insisting "this isn't about frustrating Brexit" but instead about "getting Brexit right".

He acknowledges that another referendum - as demanded by the People's Vote campaign - could result in further divisions in society.

But he says that it could be necessary to protect people's livelihoods from a no-deal Brexit.

He's calling for a "common-sense Brexit" based on "building up" from Theresa May's Chequers plan.

But he acknowledges that disputes at Westminster mean this approach is looking "more and more unlikely" and "the odds on a no-deal outcome are growing every day".

That would be a "disaster" for Greater Manchester, he will say, as he calls for a cross-party approach to preventing a no-deal scenario.

"As soon as it becomes clear that the MPs against a no-deal outcome cannot unite around a plan, I would urge all Greater Manchester MPs to support a call on the EU for an extension of Article 50 beyond the March deadline as the next way of stopping no deal," he will say.

"This isn't about frustrating Brexit. It is about getting Brexit right.

"If that fails and we are left on the cliff-edge of no deal with no other options, then and only then would I endorse the call for a people's vote on the proposed no-deal departure and encourage our MPs to do the same.

"A price would undoubtedly be paid in terms of social cohesion but it would be a necessary one to protect the damage to people's jobs, families and lives.

"I realise that this is an unfashionably-nuanced position when simplistic big positions are all the rage."

Mr Burnham argues that the result of the 2016 referendum was "as much an instruction for Westminster to review its relationship with the rest of England" as Brussels.

"If the phrase 'take back control' is to mean anything, it must mean substantial devolution of power and resources out of Westminster to all of the English regions," he will say.

A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said: "As the Prime Minister has made clear, we are leaving the EU on 29 March 2019.

"We have made good progress on the Withdrawal Agreement. Most issues have been resolved, including citizens' rights and the financial settlement.

"As a result of the significant progress made in negotiations, we remain confident we will agree a mutually advantageous deal with the EU."