Holding another referendum on Brexit would be the most “divisive” moment in British politics for more than 100 years, Lord Hague has said.
The former foreign secretary warned of the risk of a “hate-filled” campaign if the government attempted to revisit the issue and tell people “they were wrong” when voting to leave in 2016.
He said he would be “more likely” to vote leave if there was another poll.
“You can’t go around in circles. We have to stick to the decision.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said the UK’s negotiations with the EU had taken a “fairly predictable” course up to now and it was incumbent on both sides to try and secure a breakthrough.
Lord Hague, a Remain supporter who left frontline politics in 2015, said that while quitting the EU without a deal could not be ruled out, he believed it would not be a good outcome.
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Neither the Conservatives nor Labour support another referendum on the terms of the UK’s exit but MPs are demanding a vote in Parliament on the deal negotiated by Theresa May’s government – although this is unlikely to prevent the UK from leaving in March 2019.
The Lib Dems have said the public are entitled to change their mind and should be given a final say on the withdrawal agreement in what they have claimed would be the “first referendum on the facts”.
But the former Conservative leader suggested that would be calamitous for the country, given that more people had voted to leave the EU in June 2016 – when 17.4 million people, or 51.9% of those turning out, backed Leave – than had voted for any government in British history.
“It would be the most divisive event in this country since the arguments over Irish home rule at least, to try and go back over this issue,” he said.
“Imagine going back to the people of this country and saying ‘you got this wrong in the referendum, you may have turned out in record numbers and most of the country voted to leave but nevertheless we think you got it wrong and we are going to run it again’.
“Imagine the hate-filled campaign that would divide this country. I do not think that is a price worth paying.”
The issue of whether to grant Ireland self-government within the UK dominated British politics for decades during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.