Britain must revoke its notice to quit the European Union with immediate effect to allow for “serious and profound reflection” by both parliament and the people, former Prime Minister John Major said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal on Monday in an abrupt move that opened up a range of possibilities from a Brexit without a deal, a last-minute agreement or another EU referendum.
The European Union’s top court also ruled on Monday that the British government may reverse its Article 50 formal divorce notice that has set its withdrawal date from March 29 without having to consult other member states.
In order to calm financial markets and protect the economic wellbeing of the British people, the Brexit process needs to be stopped, Mr Major said.
“We need to revoke article 50 with immediate effect. The clock, for the moment, must be stopped,” Mr Major, who also faced a revolt inside the Conservative Party over Europe, said in a speech at an international affairs think tank in Dublin.
“It’s clear we now need the most precious commodity of all: time. Time for serious and profound reflection by both parliament and people. There will be a way through the present morass, there always is.”
Mr Major, who led Britain from 1990 to 1997 and campaigned to stay in the EU, is among three of the four former British prime ministers still alive to have called for a second referendum as a way to resolve the crisis.
The former prime minister, who faced down Eurosceptic members of his own cabinet to win a vote of confidence over his handling of the EU’s landmark Maastricht Treaty in 1993, said he believed Brexit reduced Britain’s international influence.
“We are a more valued ally for America because of our influence in Europe and we are more valued by Europe because of our close relationship with America,” he said.
“Britain, shorn of both these long-standing allies, will be seen by the world as a mid-sized, middle-ranking power that is no longer super-powered by her alliances.”