FIFTY North-East businesspeople and academics have joined an organisation which launches a national advertising campaign today calling for a second Brexit referendum.

They range from people who run businesses tasting wine to those who manufacturer cryogenic tanks, and they include professors of law and physics.

They have put their names to the Business for A People’s Vote campaign which today launches adverts calling for a second referendum to break the existing Parliamentary impasse.

“We need to respect the referendum of 2016 where people voted out for a range of diverse reasons,” said North-East organiser Richard Swart, of Berger Europe which manufacturers clamping rings, lids and seals in Peterlee. “Now we have clearly defined options, we should go back to the people and ask them which one they want.”

Although the question has yet to be formulated, options would probably include leaving the EU without a deal, leaving under Theresa May’s deal, or remaining a member.

Yesterday, Mrs May argued strongly that a second vote would “"break faith with the British people" and cause "irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics".

But Mr Swart, who campaigned for remain, said: “If Parliament can’t decide, we will have very little choice but to go back to the people – after all, we are a democracy.”

The signatories to the campaign include engineers, architects and manufacturers, and there are also well known names like Nigel Mills, the former chair of Entrepreneurs Forum, and financier Hugh Morgan-Williams, as well as media consultant Peter Grant, retail analyst Justin Souter and events organiser Carolyn Ramsbotham.

Academic signatories include Professor Alan Martin, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Durham University, Professor Thom Brooks, Dean of Durham Law School, who advised the Electoral Commission on the wording of the original referendum.

Prof Brooks now believes a second referendum should be a straight choice between Mrs May’s deal and remain, as he argues that no-deal was never an option during the first campaign.

He said: “Many in Parliament seem split. They have doubts about May’s deal, but do not want to act against the public’s wishes. This is understandable. Now that Brexit means 500-plus pages of detail, it should be left to the public to decide whether or not to accept the view it is the Brexit they voted for or not.”

A second vote remains unlikely – holding one would require a majority in the House of Commons and it would probably mean the delaying of Britain’s exit on March 29 – but it is gaining traction, particularly among remain-supporting MPs from all parties. It has been promoted by former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major, but the current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is lukewarm, worrying that it could alienate traditional Labour voters in Leave-supporting areas.

Phil Wilson, the remain-supporting Sedgefield MP who has been campaigning for a second vote for months, said: “The mood is changing here in the North-East. Even Mrs May knows that her deal is not as good as the one we have now so it would be wrong not to test with the public.”