[Letwin] would definitely oppose trying to decide Brexit in the hurly-burly of a general election campaign. And he is pretty sure MPs are ready to keep postponing the election until after Brexit is decided.
“I can’t see how you can do that [resolve Brexit] very well in a general election where it will get, as Alan Duncan said in a marvellous speech this week, all muddled up in other things,” he said.
Was he in agreement with Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, who yesterday called for a referendum to be held before the election? Sir Oliver replied: “We need to resolve this issue of Brexit before there is a general election so that the election can be about who you want to have govern you, and so the resolution of the Brexit issue is separate. I would prefer that and, like Tom, I would prefer that to be done through the acceptance of a deal in parliament.”
And where would that leave the prime minister’s plea for an immediate general election with Brexit on the ballot paper?
Sir Oliver replied in a musing tone: “I’ve heard all sorts of predictions of the election timing – next week, next minute, next day – but I have never been confident they were right because I think we will get a majority in the House of Commons who agree with the view that I take, which is that it is better to get the Brexit issues resolved first and have an election after.
“That means either you get a deal and get it in place, which is relatively quick, or you have a deal followed by a referendum, which is relatively long.”