Sputnik: How influential is Justine Greening? Will she be listened to?
Jonathan Portes: I think she is a former cabinet minister, so she has some influence and she does, I think, represent some current of opinion within on the wing of the Conservative Party which favored remain and which wants the softest possible Brexit. I think, however, what it shows more broadly is that Theresa May's Brexit strategy is not really commanding support from either wing of her party. It's unpopular both with people like Justine Greening, who would really rather remain in the EU, and with the hard-Brexit wing, who want us to make a clean break. So, I think it's not something that's immediately going to happen — we are not going immediately to be able to move to a second referendum — but it does illustrate that Theresa May's strategy does not appear to be a viable one at the moment.
Sputnik: Greening's proposal was to actually have three options in a new referendum: May's final deal, a no-deal Brexit or staying in the EU. Do you think that those are the real options that exist?
Jonathan Portes: I mean I think the idea of three option referendum is too complicated. And the idea that, as Greenings says, it would somehow heal the divisions and lead to a more consensual outcome, I think it's fantasy. We have to face the fact that the UK is quite divided about Brexit and we have to sort this out, but doing so through some sort of complex referendum that couldn't happen until after the deal has actually been finalized, which it's not going to be for some considerable time, isn't really a viable option at all. So, I don't think that this particular proposal is going anywhere, frankly.
Sputnik: Do you think that you need to have a simple revote on Brexit, yes or no?
Jonathan Portes: Well, I am not sure that that is going to solve the divisions either. I mean the problem is that the UK is quite divided. We are going to have to work through this process somehow and I think it's very difficult to see how it will play out. For the moment, I think that the UK government will have to pursue its strategy in negotiating with the EU and see whether it can get a deal that it can sell to the Parliament and the British people. If it does, then we can proceed on that basis, if it does not, then the government will collapse and the UK parliament, in the first instance, will have to work out what the next step forward is, quite possibly asking for some form of extension of the article 50 process so that we can collect ourselves and consider what a sensible way forward might be for the UK.
The views and opinions expressed by Jonathan Portes are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.