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Author Ian McEwan urges second referendum on Brexit

© AFP/File / by Alice TIDEY | British writer Ian McEwan, pictured in 2010, campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU before 52 percent of the electorate opted to leave last summer


The award-winning author of "Atonement", Ian McEwan, said Friday there should be a referendum on Britain's final Brexit deal with the European Union, arguing it was still possible to stay in.

McEwan, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU before 52 percent of the electorate opted to leave last summer, also said politicians had forgotten which side they supported in the vote.

"In two years, a deal will be before us or not done at all and such an outcome demands general assent," McEwan said at a conference entitled "Brexit and the Political Crash" in London.

Since the vote, Britain has been behaving "like a depressed teenage self-harmer" that at first "takes out a razor to our forearm and now contemplates its own throat", he said.

The 68-year-old writer argued that it was still possible for Britain to change its mind.

"Take another look at Article 50: it's written in plain language, it's very short, it does not say -- in fact it does not even address -- that once initiated by a nation, that nation must leave," he said.

Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty explains the formal process for a member state leaving the bloc, but McEwan accused politicians who now embrace Brexit of abandoning so-called "remainers".

"Politicians who so recently spoke for the EU now occupy the highest offices in the land and are driving us out," he said.

- 'Angry old men' -

"A gang, comprising many angry old men, irritable even in victory, are shaping the future of the country against the inclinations of its youth," he said.

Irish musician and activist Bob Geldof, also attending the conference, said Brexit needs to be prevented "at all cost" as the EU's unravelling would lead to nations "scrapping at each other".

"Will I vote for my children to go to war? Potentially my grandchildren? I will not, ever," the Boomtown Rats singer said, mentioning the possible repercussions for his native Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, is in the south, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and is thus on course to leave the EU.

"We cannot have it. This is a critical issue," Geldof said, noting concerns that a hard border might be imposed on the island.

Singer Jarvis Cocker also spoke at the event.

"It feels like the extremist minority is being allowed to dominate the conversation," the Pulp frontman said, denouncing the divisive rhetoric that emerged following the referendum result.

"There is no us and them, goodies or baddies," he said.

by Alice TIDEY

© 2017 AFP