Brexit: Second referendum "impossible" says ex-EU chief Romano Prodi as government said to eye £36bn "divorce bill"

Lynsey Barber
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Former EU commissioner Romano Prodi believes there must be compromise (Source: Getty)

A former head of the European Commission has said a second referendum on Britain's membership of the union is almost impossible.

Romano Prodi, the former Prime Minister of Italy who led the commission between 1999 and 2004, said there will have to be "historic compromise" for Britain and the EU to come to an agreement, speaking in an interview with The Observer, and that the economic impact of failing to do so has been vastly underestimated across the region.

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He said:

“Maybe I am biased, being an economist, but it may be that there is still an imprecise [understanding] of the real economic consequences of Brexit. This is why I am now looking deeper and deeper that a compromise must be reached. Not to repeat the referendum as is mentioned more and more often in private conversations - I think that is impossible, or very difficult - but to find a compromise to avoid suicide.”

Prodi suggested a sector by sector stance on immigration and urged trade ties to be preserved.

“For example, we have joint scientific projects in which the UK has always had a strong position because of your universities and tradition. Clearly, movement of manpower in this sector is of deep interest and does not move any passion even in the core of anti-European British [voters]. In my opinion, you should start giving guarantees in all these fields in which there is a common interest to have an exception,” he said.

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It comes as fresh reports suggest the British government is prepared to foot a £36bn "divorce bill" for Brexit, significantly less than previous suggestions of €100bn (£84.5bn) and an expected €40bn.

But the government is only prepared to pay the bill to the EU if it comes with an agreement to negotiate other terms, such as a trade deal, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The government is expected to publish its proposals for leaving Europe in the coming weeks.

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