EU leaders have begun directly urging Theresa May to hold a fresh Brexit referendum, amid frustration on the continent at the political crisis raging in Britain.
Andrej Babiš, the Czech prime minister, revealed on Wednesday that he had called Ms May at the weekend and urged her to hold another vote – with a view to staying in the EU.
It comes after French president Emmanuel Macron and other EU figures warned that they would only grant an extension to Article 50 if the UK could come up with a reason why it needed more time.
“On Saturday I called with the British Prime Minister Theresa May,” Mr Babiš said in a tweet.
“We solved Brexit. I told her that the best solution would be for the UK to remain in the European Union.
“That is why I believe it is worth holding a new referendum. She refused, but I still don’t think it was impossible.”
MPs will vote on Thursday on whether to order the Government to seek an extension of Article 50, but whether the EU would grant one is less than clear-cut, with some member states more enthusiastic than others.
A new referendum would require a long extension, with the UK’s own Electoral Commission estimating that a delay as long as six months could be required to stage another vote.
Another option on the table is a shorter extension – which would have the advantage of meaning the UK did not have to participate in EU Parliament elections due for May. But a more limited period would probably not be enough for a public vote.
In September Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat said that support for a second referendum was at the time “almost unanimous” among EU leaders – though many have declined to speak out openly on one. EU leaders have repeatedly said that they respect the choice of the British public.
Mr Babiš himself said then that he was “very unhappy” that the UK was leaving and that “it would be better maybe to make another referendum and the people in the meantime could change their view”.