In a speech to the European parliament on January 16, EU president Donald Tusk called for greater clarity over Britain's vision for life outside the bloc and its impending future relationship with the other states after Brexit comes into force in March, 2019.
He insisted, however, it was still not too late for the British to have a change of heart and reverse its decision taken after a referendum in 2016 to remain within the European family.
His call for Britain to change its mind was immediately rebuked by Tory Brexiteers who described the suggestion as "absurd". Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex, said: "Nobody serious wants another referendum in this country on this question."
Yet it comes only days after one key Brexit figure, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, hinted a second referendum could be held to settle the issue once and for all after growing calls for Britain to step back from the brink and risk a possible economic catastrophe.
Unless there is a change of heart among our British friends, #Brexit will become a reality – with all its negative consequences — March next year. We, here on the continent, haven’t had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open for you.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) 16 January 2018
As I keep saying it's an outrage that no one had looked at impact BEFORE they invoked article 50 — MPs don't care how it will affect jobs/lives and by the reaction of public — neither do they!— Typist (@Woo100) 8 December 2017
French wld have been on streets by now and Davis out of a job.
Mr Barnier, sir. Can you please tell us what your reaction would be if on or before 29 March 2019 the UK government revokes #Article50? Will the U.K. continue its EU membership as if referendum didn’t happen?— Vikram #FBPE (@virvikram) November 13, 2017
Hard Work Lies Ahead
Insisting on more clarity from the UK, Mr. Tusk said the leaders of the remaining European states will meet and decide on the way it sees its future relationship with Britain as a third country.
He warned the "hardest work" still lies ahead with time fast running out."We must maintain the unity of the EU27 in every scenario, and personally I have no doubt that we will. If the UK government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality — with all its negative consequences — in March next year. Unless there is a change of heart among our British friends," the president said.
"Wasn't it David Davis himself who said: 'If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.' We, here on the continent, haven't had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you." added Mr. Tusk.
Isn't May's Brexit date (enshrined in law) a reaction to realising Article 50 can be revoked? #bbcdp— Tinker (@DamonMercy) 13 November 2017
Over reaction- concerns only parliamentary overseeing Govt proposals with respect to BREXIT which May has shown she is incapable of handling —totally BLOWN IT in fact —Parliament will prob never agree on anything that leaves ARTICLE 50 BREXIT NO DEAL 2019 —best of all outcomes!— sgt good (@GoodSgt) December 14, 2017
I've seen a UK poll suggesting Remain is now at 51%. But that is hardly decisive, and counts for bugger all if there isn't another referendum. Is that going to happen? What would be the EU's reaction? It's not even certain Article 50 can be revoked.— Peter A Bell #Referendum2018 (@BerthanPete) January 14, 2018
The suggestion was promptly kicked out the park by Leave campaigners who demanded the result of the national referendum be adhered too. Mr. Jenkin dismissed the idea, arguing the British government would not want to ignore the decision to leave. "The referendum was won by the leave campaign against the odds and against the expectation because nobody could find anything good to say about the European Union during the campaign. All we had was fear from the government about what would go wrong if we choose to leave," he said.
The MP continued: "Most of those fears have not been realised. We were meant to have 500,000 more unemployed, we were meant to be in recession by now. That has not happened. Most countries aren't in the EU and they're fine."
1/2 EU Commission reaction to UK's latest #Brexit twists just out: "(…) Formally speaking, the Joint Report is not legally binding. It is not yet the Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement. But we see the Joint Report of Michel Barnier and David Davis as a deal between gentlemen."— StefanieBolzen (@StefanieBolzen) 11 December 2017
His comments came as Pro-EU MPs attempt to force the UK government to reveal its legal advice on whether article 50 could be reversed, potentially allowing Britain to withdraw from the Brexit process.
A cross-party group of around 20 backbenchers will next week attempt to pass an amendment to force the prime minister to reveal its advice when the EU withdrawal bill returns for debate in the House of Commons.
The British government has previously refused to say what legal advice its lawyers have intimated regarding this issue despite some suggestions that it can, in fact, be overturned.
Chris Leslie, the former shadow chancellor, said: "This amendment is designed to provide transparency, so that MPs and our constituents know all the facts about article 50. If the government have been told that the article 50 notification can legally be revoked, they should be upfront with the public about it."
The latest development have, of course, stirred up plenty of reaction on social media with a huge division of views on whether Britain will press ahead with its exit from the European bloc, or decide to remain as part of the family.
Many people in the UK remain sceptical whether Britain can still step back from the brink, even at this stage in the negotiations, while others insist the referendum decision must stand.