Thursday 5 April 2018

We should have a second referendum on Brexit

As a participant on many occasions in British democracy I cannot help but respect the outcomes of our various elections, even if I am sometimes disappointed. Of course, British democracy is a long way from perfect, and I campaign to improve it. Nonetheless, we must agree to accept outcomes, to do otherwise invites tyranny.

I was a Remain campaigner, and I still find the Brexit verdict both perplexing and disturbing.

I value our economic well-being and prosperity. I also value peace in western Europe. Above all, though, I value the UK’s role in the world. I am an internationalist, and somewhat shocked by some who appear determined to isolate the country and themselves.

As a democrat I respect the decision taken at the referendum, but this is not where democracy has to end. We can look at decisions to come and be asked to accept or reject potential outcomes.

The Brexit negotiations are revealing the reality of the UK outside of the EU. A poorer nation, isolated and alone, struggling to compete with global economic superpowers. Some will think unfavourable tariff arrangements, declining influence, and jobs going abroad are a price worth paying. Others will not. Whatever, lies were told during the referendum campaign and I suspect many are now having second thoughts about the wisdom of voting Leave.

The deal, when it is finally forged, may fall some way short of expectations. We voted to leave the EU, but it can be reasonably argued that this was not a mandate to leave at any price. It is not an unreasonable proposition, therefore, to invite the British voting public, to pass verdict over the negotiations – and ask whether it is ‘deal or no deal’. We must have a second referendum on that deal, on the Brexit negotiations, and whether it gives us what we want. What it finally looks like is so important to the future of the nation (and its integrity) that we cannot just trust blindly wander off without regard to what this really means to all our futures.

Some will doubtless cry foul, think we only need the one vote and that is it. However, democracy is an ongoing conversation. What a strange state of affairs it would be if we were never allowed to change our minds, or be allowed to voice opinions more than once.


  1. Firstly, Julian, a typo alert. "I suspect many are not having second thoughts about the wisdom of voting Leave." I believe your "not" should have been a "now".

    Reasonably argued, but I don't agree about the second referendum. I think Parliament should just vote it down and reassert its sovereignty.

  2. If we agree to accept outcomes of democratic processes I think we should accept the outcome of the 2016 referendum for a reasonable amount of time - probably be at least 5 years (roughly the same as a general election). That would suggest not having a referendum on the EU this year to reversing and rejecting the 2016 referendum before brexit can be carried out.
    Another consideration is that if there is a referendum on accepting or rejecting the deal proposed by the UK government, a vote for 'no deal' would have an ambiguous meaning, unless it was clearly specified that either it means the UK staying in the EU, or that it means the UK doing a hard brexit without a deal.

    1. You ignore the obvious third possibility, and this is that we ask the Government to go back to the table and negotiate a better deal.


St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition