“A second Brexit referendum is back in play”: The Economist

Following on from public opinion continuing to move in favour of holding a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal and The Independent throwing its editorial support behind the idea, comes this from The Economist:

The idea of revisiting the [2016] referendum is back in play. By law, Theresa May’s government cannot sign a Brexit deal without MPs’ approval. And in the past couple of weeks it has begun to look as if Parliament will reject any deal. The Labour opposition has set six tests for the agreement, which look designed to be unpassable. The Conservative Party, meanwhile, is in a rebellious mood. This week hardline Tory Brexiteers forced the government to toughen its approach to customs, before a faction of Tory Remainers forced it to soften its policy on medical regulation. More defeats were avoided by as few as three votes. It is hard to imagine MPs agreeing to the unappealing deal that Mrs May is likely to bring back from Brussels later this year. And if they don’t, Britain could crash out of the EU on March 29th with no deal at all.

Many in Westminster therefore wonder if the only way to break the deadlock may be to send the matter back to the people.

23 responses to ““A second Brexit referendum is back in play”: The Economist”

  1. A second referendum would destroy the entire credibility of democatic decision-making. It is a fallacy that the sam issue can be re-run and re-run without undermining the trust if the public in the results. One cannot run a country relying on the neverendum fallacy.

    • It’s an odd arguments to say we can’t re-run issues in a democracy because isn’t that the very heart of a democracy? We don’t get only one general election ever and then the winner rules for life. Or imagine how people would react if you told them that the NHS is banned from being an issue at the next general election because it was an issue at the last one and we’re not allowed to re-run an issue?

      • If you are using a general election as an analogy and democracy as an argument then the referendum result needs to be implemented first and then a second referendum can come after. The ol remain argument that we didn’t know what we were voting for and its all so much clearer now also applies. In a general election the majority of the electorate will vote for a party that has MOST of the policies they agree with and and they may not know all of the finer detail, they are also aware that promises may be broken after the winning party gets into power, sound familiar?
        Like a general election leavers voted because of a range of issues whether it be immigration, money, sovereignty, ECJ or not wanting to be part of a failing undemocratic organisation. Most of these reasons can be implemented once we leave but unfortunately we have an undemocratic part of the population that simply will not accept the result. As I said implementation first and then a second referendum after, if needed…..although I am pretty confident if won’t!

      • How are you going to implement the referendum Darren if Parliament can’t agree a way to do it?

    • Quite right. Once a decision has been made, and it transpires that the decision was not quite as smart as it first appeared, the decision has to be followed through no mater what because anything less would be a grave dereliction of democracy—where reconsidering and changing mind is not an option.

      • This is a flawed argument. Surely the people are democratically able to change their mind if the situation changes. No one can claim that the reality of Brexit is not clearer than it was 2 years ago. If the people are still in favour of Brexit that would emerge from a democratic vote. If the people have changed their collective view they can prevent the emerging impact of Brexit – by a democratic vote. What are the Brexiteers afraid of??

      • Excuse me, but we had a referendum about whether to be part of the EU back in the 70’s. So are you saying that the recent rerun, when only 37ז% of eligible voters voted to leave was therefore illegal as you say there can be no revisiting the subject? Or is it only reruns that you worry will go against the leave decision that are ‘ undemocratic’? You need to remember that any possible future referendum on the issue would be the THIRD one not the second as there has already been a second one. You can’t have it both ways.

  2. Of course we can have another referendum that is what democracy is all about, the current impasse is not the way to run a country so divided by the Brexit debate.

  3. One factor that must be taken into account in the BREXIT debate is:

    Whereas prior to the referendum, there was no intelligent information available from any source – today, despite all the political propaganda, we now know all the issues.

    It is therefore obvious that a second referendum is necessary – my personal view is that staying in the EU gives us virtually all the advantages save for the emotional immigration issue. Just look how Poland sorted that one out, and they still have all the advantages of the EU.

  4. Why not have a 2nd referendum ? – the 1st one was based upon no information but simple political propaganda from the top and scurrilous cheap news commentary from the bottom.

    Today, we the public, are much better informed and are able to make a better judgement.

    I for one see staying in the EU as giving the UK almost all she requires save for the immigration fears – look at Poland and note how they resolved it whilst still in the EU. And there are other methods to resolve this issue I could enumerate if asked.

    • Although I agree with you on having a referendum, Malcolm, I fear that it won’t be one free of propaganda and scurrilous information!

  5. Very Well said Mark. I have been trying to find a concise way of answering this argument people keep coming up with about second referendums being undemocratic and you have just supplied the perfect answer. Thank you.

  6. Perhaps my comments on another referendum were not explicit enough.

    I was making the statement that at the time of the Referendum, we, the honourable public as it were, were so badly informed or not at all informed as to the implications of BREXIT.

    Let me press the point home with better clarity. I am suggesting that this referendum [the so-called 1st referendum] was therefore a false one and in effect should be nullified by having a fresh Referendum where now the complexities and implications of a BREXIT are much better known to all.

    I do not wish to ramble on about the immigration issue which is a real fear but if asked, there are a number of methods I believe that could resolve the issue, both to the EU and the British public.

  7. If it were to prove possible for some sort of deal to be done which would provide a trading regime sufficient avoid the widespread destruction of people’s jobs, maintain sufficient supply of food, medicines etc and solve the Irish border problem (even if not achieving all the benefits of EU membership) then arguments against another reference to the people could be entertained.

    If no such deal which can gain a majority in parliament emerges, then the situation is so serious that such arguments have to be set aside. No parliament can simply let mayhem proceed and it is hard to see any answer other than a reference to the people . This would have to be coupled with an extension of the Article 50 period.

  8. Days before Ref 2016 I asked many friends what they would be voting and many answered with “I don’t know, what do you recommend”. Many comers to this country who had recently obtained British nationality voted Leave because “There were lots of foreigners in this country” !!!

    I strongly support a second Ref on whether we accept whatever Frankenstein of a deal mishmashed by Theresa May or we stay in the EU. We have not seen anything better so far to what we have now with the EU. Promises of life greener on the other side is too much of a risk to take. This decision cannot be based on emotional or ideological fantasies. After all non of the Brexit cheerleaders will pay if all goes wrong, the country will. And the country has the right to change its mind before we reach the point of no return.

  9. Brexiteers talk endlessly of a hoped-for utopia yet singularly fail to explain the detailed consequences of a hard Brexit, preferring to assume that the EU will bend its fundamental rules to soften our self-inflicted pain. Since june 2016 none have produced a credible plan which is likely to be acceptable to both parliament and the EU27. The EU ain’t perfect for sure, but being inside to benefit from its strengths and sit at the table to help correct its known weaknesses is surely prefereable to taking a small boat into the stormy waters of the N Atlantic with a mutninous crew and a chart devoid of any navigation information other than the word ‘destination’.
    In the absence of a government with the nation’s rather than their party’s interests at heart a second referendum is the only democratic solution to this self-inflicted national humiliation.

  10. Actually it would be the third EU referendum. 1975, 2016 and then another one. If the strictures of those opposed to a new referendum had been followed we would never have had the 2016 one, because that wasn’t democratic as the 1975 referendum was a forever decision.
    I am far more worried about how such a referendum would be fought to win it for staying in the EU. Without tough new rules we risk the same sort of misinformation, deception and downright lies that characterised the 2016 campaign.
    Yes, some people now know more, but an awful lot of people have closed their ears to the real information and have no clue as to how serious leaving the EU actually is and don’t want to know. Any remain campaign that looks anything like the last one will lose.

  11. The 2016 referendum offered a choice between the known – remaining in the EU, and an infinite range of possible unknowns – leaving the EU. Each leave-inclined voter could assemble his or her own wish list of desired outcomes and confidently vote for them, knowing exactly what that vote meant. But there would have been no decisive majority for any single leave vision.
    Once the true alternative to EU membership is clear, the people must be given another vote.
    This is no more or less than the old carpenter’s watchword: measure twice before cutting once.

  12. Referendum Democracy is Oyster (travel) card politics.

    In 2016 we voted to look because there was no supermajority. That is our constitutional requirement. We started a journey that was very complicated because it rather depended on movable meetings. The Irish problem created a return ticket requirement. Many things were mentioned but breaking up the Union was not on the ballot paper. It was like a closes line. You show your Oyster card as you leave the station and get on the next bus or go home. Exactly. Law next.

    Although we have no written single document constitution to hang our hat on, we have three threads of Parliament, case law and convention.

    The last of these is split into informal things – we queue – and formal. For Referendum formal convention we’re signed up to Venice.

    This is constitutional law because our government always makes formal protest when elections elsewhere are not free and fair so they must obey their own counsel.

    The 2016 Referendum was not free and fair as Carole Cadwalladr’s twitter post with the chart here…


  13. And if the result is still leave……. How many more referendums will we have to endure before democracy is killed off forever. We voted leave and this result should be final.

    • Letting people vote is democracy. What kills democracy is to say you have had one vote and now can’t vote again.

  14. It’s very unfortunate that the Economist talks about “revisiting” the 2016 Referendum. The Liberal Democrats have always been clear (though currently, and sadly, it’s rather muted) that we wanted a vote on the terms of the Brexit deal, with the option of staying on the ballot paper on the ballot paper. We weren’t advocating re-running the 2016 Referendum.

    And when out on the doorstep, we were encouraged as Lib Dem canvassers to explain why we wanted a further referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, in terms of a voyage, ie: When we voted in the 2016 referendum, we knew we were leaving the EU, ie we voted for a departure, but we didn’t know what the destination was.

  15. As and if/when there is another referendum could there be a greater effort to explain how a referendum works. This was generally missing from information. As the UK has a first past the post system based on constituencies, many voters did not understand the difference in the way votes are counted in a referendum. This is not surprising given that the last one was in the 1970s when many current voters were not eligible to vote, or weren’t born. In a referendum there is one vote per person which is not allocated on a geographical basis, even though there may be regional counting centres.

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