Former Labour leader contender David Miliband has today renewed calls for a public vote on the final Brexit deal, saying that leaving the EU was "absolutely" the wrong decision to make.
His words were greeted with a round of applause by financial professionals attending the Milken Institute's London Summit, as he said that any Brexit deal which does take place should be one that leaves the UK "as close as possible" to the European Union.
"Democracy can't die on the 23 January 2016," said Miliband, who is now president of humanitarian aid non-governmental organisation the International Rescue Committee. "The deal on the future needs a vote from the people."
When asked whether a deal which separated the UK from the political structure of the EU but retained its current trading relationship would be acceptable without another referendum, Miliband said it was "far from clear that this is on offer". He added that that there was "no such thing as a soft Brexit – just a slow Brexit".
But business leaders speaking at a panel at the London Summit seemed less enamoured with the idea of another public vote.
"We have accepted the vote and it's now the time to execute on that," said Lloyd's of London's chief executive Bruce Carnegie-Brown. The historic marketplace has established a subsidiary in Brussels since the Brexit vote in order to ensure it retains access to the EU – even though Carnegie-Brown accepted this had introduced "friction" into the business.
According to Howard Shore, executive chairman of investment group Shore Capital, businesses in the financial services industry cannot afford to rely on the possibility of a second referendum, as regulators have already been hounding firms for every detail of their post-Brexit plans.
Jasmine Whitbread, head of business membership body, added that London's firms were certainly not planning for a second referendum but had not "ruled it out".
Miliband's talk of a vote on the final Brexit deal refreshes his calls for a second referendum this summer, when he offered reluctant support to chancellor Philip Hammond over his push for a transition period.