Europe, Politics, World Affairs

The Case for a Second EU Referendum

There is a great deal of talk in Britain at the moment about a “People’s Vote”—a referendum on the terms of the withdrawal agreement between the UK government and the EU, with an option to remain in the EU. It was predictable in June 2016 that sooner or later minds would focus on the terms of the agreement that would need to be reached as part of the process when the British government triggered Article 50, the clause of the Treaty on European Union that enables member states to secede. One of the advantages of the time-limited nature of the Article 50 process is that it means the issue cannot be delayed indefinitely.

This focusing of minds has, unsurprisingly, led to widespread calls for a “People’s Vote.” It is equally unsurprising that the proposal should encounter stiff resistance. Many voters were led to believe, not least by the British Government, that their vote in the 2016 referendum would settle the matter of the UK’s EU membership once and for all. Against that backdrop, many people (including some who voted Remain) consider that another vote is an attempt to reverse the result of the first referendum.

Those arguing for a “People’s Vote” need to be clear as to the rationale for it. There are, broadly speaking, three such rationales. In my view, only one of them is robust.

First Rationale: The 2016 Leave Campaign

First, there is the rationale based on the alleged irregularities of the 2016 “Vote Leave” campaign, such as misinforming the public about the likely financial benefits of leaving the EU and exaggerating the risk of the EU being enlarged to include Turkey. However, this rationale won’t wash, no matter how strongly people feel, as I do, that the Leave campaign was dishonest.

Arguing for a second referendum because statements made by the Leave campaign were factually incorrect has the smell of seeking to re-argue the very same issues that were debated (no matter how inadequately) in 2016. In addition, many Brexiteers feel just as strongly, although in my view mistakenly, that the Remain campaign was equally dishonest. The fate of the withdrawal agreement, and indeed the country at large, cannot depend on “he said, she said” accusations and counter-accusations. 

Second Rationale: Breaches of Electoral Law in 2016

The second rationale is that the Leave campaign broke the law by exceeding its spending limits. The UK Electoral Commission, in its July 2018 report, found that expenditure by the BeLeave organization of £675,000 on online advertising was made under a “common plan” with Vote Leave, and that as a result Vote Leave exceeded its legal spending limits. The Electoral Commission did not merely conclude that this was likely to be true on the balance of probabilities, but true beyond a reasonable doubt. (Editor’s note: This ruling is being appealed by Vote Leave and BeLeave.)

The difficulty with this rationale is that it must be understood either in legal or political terms, and it does not quite work in either. As a matter of law, the breach of the spending rules does not entail that the referendum is void and without effect. Had the referendum been binding, and formed a cog in statutory machinery leading inexorably to the UK’s departure from the EU, then the breach of electoral law could have had the effect of invalidating the whole process. But the vote was only “advisory,” which is to say the UK Government was not legally bound to respect its result, so that argument doesn’t work. 

And as a stand-alone political rationale for a second referendum, this doesn’t work either. Problems with the first referendum do not by themselves justify a second, and different, referendum. Nonetheless, there is no reason why it should not be seen as a relevant factor by members of the UK Parliament in deciding whether a second referendum ought to take place.

Third Rationale: From the General to the Specific

A good starting point in articulating the third rationale for the “People’s Vote” is an academic article by the political philosopher Brian Barry titled, ‘Is Democracy Special?’ published in 1979 and now gathering dust in an out-of-print book, Democracy and Power, Essays in Political Theory (1991).

In that article, Barry was concerned with two things: the basic rationale for democracy as such, and the way in which voting mechanisms ought to reflect that rationale. The rationale for democracy, according to Barry, is the “majority principle.” He illustrated this with a simple example. Suppose there are five people sharing a train carriage. They have to decide whether to permit smoking or not: an apparently logical and fair way of deciding the issue is by a majority vote. 

So far, so (relatively) straightforward. Suppose that they have a vote on smoking, and the majority decide to prohibit smoking. Suppose also that there is another vote as to whether there ought to be a rule prohibiting passengers from listening to the radio and the result of the two separate votes is that there is a majority against both smoking and listening to the radio.

Barry points out that it would not follow from the above that if the passengers were asked to vote on both issues together they would come to the same conclusion. If the passengers were presented with four (combined) options—(a) pro-smoking and pro-radio, (b) anti-both, and (c) and (d) pro-one and anti-the other—it would not follow from the result of the two separate votes that they would choose (b) if the two issues were bundled together in a single vote. It is possible that none of the four combinations would command a majority. Indeed, it may be that the opposite combination (pro-smoking and pro-radios) would win a majority.

The moral of the story is that bundling matters. While radios and smoking do not have a great deal to do with each other, in the real world preferences on policies are inter-related. Sometimes, as Barry points out, policies complement each other. For instance, if one is to buy land and spend money constructing a building on it, it would be foolish to ask people to vote separately on the purchase of land and the expenditure. Other policies are in competition with each other: if money is spent on an expensive project X, that may exclude spending on expensive project Y. If you ask people to vote for projects X and Y in isolation, they may give a positive answer to both votes. However, a vote on the combination of those projects may be unpopular owing to their combined cost.

The key question, in the context of Brexit, is whether the terms of the withdrawal agreement and the decision to leave have a sufficiently close connection that they ought to be bundled together. In any view, the terms of the agreement are important in the Brexit process —no one denies that. In an ideal world, therefore, the terms of the agreement (and indeed the eventual trade deal) would have been pre-negotiated and then presented to the voting public in 2016 as part of a “bundled” option. But that was obviously impossible.

So we have a situation in which a referendum has been held and a version of Leave will be put on the table in the form of the withdrawal agreement. Is there now a rationale for a second vote, with Remain as an option? Note that the reason for including Remain on the ballot is the aforementioned bundling argument: it would bundle together the original question of whether voters wish to leave the EU with the question of whether they wish to leave on these particular terms

On the face of it, the answer is yes. The point of democratic procedures is, in part, to determine what the majority preference is. If the majority prefers, having seen the withdrawal agreement, to remain in the EU, why should that majority not have an opportunity to express its preference by way of a vote?

The position is analogous to the following: My family collectively decides that we should eat out at a restaurant tonight, but on further investigation learns that the only restaurant open is one which no one likes. Accordingly, we decide to stay in. The first decision was based on a general question; the second on a specific one. The first decision was not overturned by the second, as it was always implicit that it may have to be tested by the specific options on offer. 

Similarly, the question asked in the 2016 referendum was general: While Remain meant one thing, Leave meant a number of possible things. By contrast, the withdrawal agreement the government has negotiated is specific. It does not include the terms of the future trade agreement between the UK and the EU, but it does include provisions for payment of outstanding liabilities, for the rights of citizens, for the length of the transition period, and for the border in Northern Ireland (which has implications for the future trade agreement). It is this contrast between the general and specific which provides the most compelling argument for a second referendum.

The point can be tested as follows: Suppose that at the time of the 2016 referendum the terms of the withdrawal agreement had been pre-negotiated by the government, but were kept in a black box. Would it have made sense for the government in those circumstances to conceal the terms of that deal from the electorate and only open the box in the event of Leave winning? The question answers itself. Knowledge of those terms would not simply have been an added bonus; it would have been absolutely fundamental to the decision-making process.

It is worth noting that in those circumstances the choice on the ballot would have been between the withdrawal agreement and Remain. Leaving the EU without a deal—an option referred to as “No Deal” in this debate—would not have been on the ballot. It is only being touted as an option at the moment because the conveyor-belt process of Article 50 renders it a possible outcome.

First Objection to the Third Rationale: Too Simple

The dinner analogy does not capture the importance of the issue decided in the 2016 referendum. However, the example can be amended to include an important decision. Say that a family decides to make a drastic move: both parents will resign from their jobs and apply for new jobs abroad in a bid to start a new life. This is clearly an important decision. It is also the kind of decision which it would be entirely rational to re-assess once the specifics of the new jobs are known.

Second Objection: 2016 Decision Absolute and Unconditional

The decision taken in 2016 must be interpreted as absolute and unconditional. That is the view adopted by Thomas Simpson, associate professor of philosophy and public policy at Oxford University. In an article titled “The Ethics of a Second Referendum” he writes:

Any second referendum could offer only the choice between the deal on the table, and leaving with no deal. The decision on Brexit has already been taken. Choosing between leaving with or without a deal is the only way that another referendum could be held in a way that respects democracy.

Simpson does not offer any arguments for the above proposition, but presents it as if it was self-evident. Indeed, he claims that anyone who suggests a “People’s Vote” with an option to Remain is acting in “bad faith.” He states that “arguments in favour of a second referendum are so embarrassingly poor that it unduly dignifies them and their proponents to have to reply.” He does not address the issue of why a choice between the withdrawal agreement and “No Deal” would be a better way of ascertaining the majority preference than a choice which includes Remain. This could only be the case if those who voted Leave in 2016 were, or are assumed to be, completely indifferent to the terms of an exit from the EU, a position that cannot be described as self-evident. Merely stating, as he does, that there is an “obvious incompatibility of [holding a People’s Vote] with democracy” is not convincing.

He also puts forward the view that “The UK’s membership of the EU is a paradigm example of an issue that may be settled by referendum.” In other words, the in-out-referendum based on a simple majority vote was perfectly suited to “settle” the issue of EU membership. But this is far from self-evident. In the constitutions of the US and Germany, amending the constitution requires more than a simple majority. This is because constitutions are, as the Germans put it, “basic law,” so changing them should be more difficult that passing less foundational laws.

Some of the more intellectually sophisticated Brexiteers recognize this. Theodore Dalrymple, who voted Leave, wrote in June 2016:

Among the many subjects not properly discussed during the campaign was whether large and fundamental political changes should be made based on 50 percent-plus-one of the votes cast in a single plebiscite… [MPs] could argue, not without plausibility, that a vote representing no more than three-eighths of the total electorate isn’t quite the groundswell of opinion that should be required for fundamental change.

I mention this not in order to rake over old ground, but to make an important point: Section 1(1) of the EU Referendum Act 2015 simply provided that “a referendum is to be held on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union,” and left it at that. The referendum was advisory, and the 2015 Act did not lay down any criteria by which the advice was to be evaluated. As David Lidington, the Minister of State for Europe, put it in the Parliamentary debate on the Referendum Bill: “What this legislation is about is holding a vote: the legislation makes no provision for what follows, and the referendum is advisory.” He added that there is “no threshold for the interpretation of the result.” 

Parliament could have specified how large a majority would be needed in order to win (possibly with other variables included, such as voter turnout) and made the result binding. But it did not. It left it open as to how the government should interpret and respond to the result. The fact that the terms of the 2015 Act were extraordinarily open-ended—and intentionally so – provides support for a People’s Vote. For it means that Parliament chose not to be automatically bound by the result of the 2016 referendum, or indeed commit itself to any view of how that result should be interpreted or acted upon.

Simpson tell us that “the result of a referendum is binding, at least politically, and for anyone who pretends to be a democrat.” This is not only incorrect but dangerous. In a society governed by the rule of law, the law must be respected and complied with. If the result of referendum was not legally binding, there is no room to interpret it as “politically” binding. In any event, Simpson ought to be careful what he wishes for. For if the referendum result was binding, it would follow, for the reasons given above, that breaches of electoral law would have rendered it null and void. 

Third objection: Parliament Did Not Provide for a Two-Stage Process

If, as I have argued, a second referendum once the terms of the withdrawal agreement are known is in keeping with the spirit of the 2015 Act, why did it not expressly provide for a two-stage process whereby an initial Leave vote would have to be followed by a further referendum on the withdrawal agreement? 

The short answer is that it didn’t need to. For one thing, it was entirely possible that the Withdrawal Agreement would have been popular in the country at large. In that eventuality, a People’s Vote would not have been necessary. It is difficult for Brexiters to deny this possibility, given that they argued strongly during the 2016 referendum that the U.K. would be well placed to negotiate a beneficial agreement with the EU. Note that when the U.K. courts interpret Acts of Parliament, they do not consider the actual thoughts, wishes or indeed intentions of MPs. The courts simply consider the words on the page, and ignore all the rest. Statutory interpretation thus involves a necessary element of speculation. My point is that it cannot be inferred from the absence of a two-stage process in the 2015 Act that Parliament ruled out a referendum on the Withdrawal Agreement. The more natural inference to be drawn from the open-ended terms of the Act is that it kept all the options on the table.

Some Brexiteers have argued that if the withdrawal agreement had been subject to approval by a second referendum in which Remain was on the ballot, this would have undermined the UK’s negotiating position by incentivising the EU to offer it a bad deal in the hope that Remain would prevail second time around. I do not accept this argument, but if it is correct it follows that there was a pragmatic reason for parliament not to legislate for a two-stage process and the fact that it did not does not mean that holding a second referendum would be contrary to the spirt of the 2015 Act.

Fourth Objection: the ‘No Deal’ Dilemma

A “People’s Vote” gives rise to the question of whether “No Deal” ought to be on the ballot. If it is, there is a possibility that it might win, and many Remainers, myself included, think the consequences of a “No Deal” Brexit would be catastrophic. But if “No Deal” isn’t on the ballot to guard against this risk, some Brexiteers will feel cheated.

In the context of the issue I am discussing in this article—the legitimacy of a “People’s Vote”—“No Deal” would, like the withdrawal agreement, have the merit of appearing specific.  However, it is a good deal less specific than the simple-sounding words “No Deal” imply. Would such an option would have the effect of preventing the government from seeking to conclude another withdrawal agreement on different terms? Would the government be prevented, in the event of a “No Deal” vote, from seeking agreement on some, but not all, of the areas covered in the withdrawal agreement? One of the lessons of the 2016 referendum is that clarity should be a paramount consideration, and “No Deal” would not, in itself, be completely clear.

Even if that issue can be overcome, another argument against including “No Deal” on the ballot is that if the UK left the EU without a deal it would be violating the terms of the Good Friday Agreement between the different political parties in Northern Ireland and between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Under the terms of that agreement, there can be no hard border between the UK and Ireland, and one of the dangers of “No Deal” is that it might create just such a border. If it did, that would not only risk the re-emergence of the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, it would also damage the UK’s international reputation as a state that honors its treaty obligations.

It is a telling that “No Deal” advocates in parliament are not campaigning for a second referendum in which “No Deal” is on the ballot. Rather, they propose to vote down the withdrawal agreement on the basis that “No Deal” will follow by default if the Article 50 process is not suspended. If they thought “No Deal” was an option they could sell to the public, they ought to be pushing for a second referendum with “No Deal” as an option.

Fifth Objection: Betrayal and Civil Unrest

One of the most popular arguments against a “People’s Vote” is that it would create a sense of betrayal amongst those who voted Leave in 2016 and were led to believe their vote would be final and that in turn could lead to civil unrest, particularly if the outcome of a second referendum is a victory for Remain.

It is true that the British government told the electorate that it would treat the result as final.  However, those assertions (quite apart from contradicting the assertions it made to parliament) were based on the assumption that the government would be within its legal rights to trigger Article 50 and conclude a withdrawal agreement without parliamentary approval. That assumption has been shown to be incorrect in the Supreme Court case R (Gina Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the EU [2017] UKSC 5, which made it clear that only parliament has the power to trigger Article 50 (which parliament duly did). It has since been conceded by the government that parliamentary approval will also be needed for the Withdrawal Agreement. The Government was thus, in 2016, promising something that it did not (unbeknownst to it) have the legal power to deliver. Parliament, which does have the power to control the Brexit process, made no such pledges. On the contrary, in the 2015 Act it refrained from making any promises at all. 

The key question with regard to issue of betrayal is not, “Would people feel betrayed if there was a ‘People’s Vote?’” but “Would they be justified in feeling so betrayed?” For the reasons set out above, they would not.

Conclusion

Rightly or wrongly, referendums have been used in the past to decide some very important issues, such as whether a new nation state should be carved out of an existing one. The 2016 referendum was fundamentally different, in that leaving the EU is something that can be done in a number of fundamentally different ways. It follows that, if the referendum process was an appropriate decision-making tool to start the process, it is also appropriate to end the process. MPs should therefore have a clear conscience in putting the issue back to the people through a “People’s Vote” when an opportunity to vote on the matter arises, as it surely will in the next few weeks.


Oliver Conolly is a barrister in London. You can follow him on Twitter
@OliverConolly
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117 Comments

  1. When the vote doesn’t go your way keeping having votes until it does. One yes vote isn’t enough we need to have 2 yes votes to be really sure. Almost the entire media establishment and elites were against Leave the first time around and it still won so to act like a bunch of people had misinformation about the benefits of leaving (and conversely little information about the possible downsides) and so voted leave is kind of ridiculous when what they were fed 24-7 was how horrific leave would be.

    • Well, voting on Brexit without any implementation information about what that would mean in terms of actual policy, legal and financial information was a bad idea.
      It’s a bit like saying “I vote for marijuana legalization” and the finding out that the implementation consists of the death penalty for possession or growing without a license, that licenses are limited to 5 producers and cost $50 million/year so only large corporations and consumer licenses require full medical evaluations annually and cost $500/year, plus a sales tax of 50%.

      • Angela says

        That’s a ridiculously over the top comparison. It’s not “a bit like saying” that at all.

      • And to vote for the legalisation of marijuana, and not expecting the outcome you suggest, would be insanely niave in today’s society.
        What the elitists don’t realise is that leave voters, and I know many, welcome a “hard ” brexit.

    • Stephanie says

      @Kevin, I look forward to the articles from the Remainers about how a third referendum is necessary, after they lose the second one they forced. If people still voted Leave after the insane scare tactics of Remain, they’ll sure as hell vote Leave again. Unless, of course, elites such as the author put the referendum together in such a way that it splits the Leave vote, which he eluded he wants to in his smoking/radio example.

      Dishonest, convoluted arguments, with an antidemocratic goal.

      • Andrew Smedley says

        I wouldn’t be so sure the people will vote to leave again. There are many people, like myself, who thought that the general public wouldn’t be stupid enough to leave the EU and selfish enough to restrict the liberty of tens of millions of people, and therefore didn’t vote the first time round. Most of my friends actually fall into this category and you can bet we’ll be out in much greater numbers if we get the chance.

        By the way I’d like to point out that you’re accusing someone of making convoluted arguments whilst also claiming that a referendum would be anti-democratic.

        • Evander says

          “There are many people, like myself, who thought that the general public wouldn’t be stupid enough to leave the EU and selfish enough to restrict the liberty of tens of millions of people, and therefore didn’t vote the first time round”

          Your entitled to your bigoted opinion, Andrew; I won’t begrudge you that. I’ll only point out that you must be so self-regarding in your political views, that you didn’t – and won’t – attempt to empathise with an under-dog constituency; you just casually fling pejorative labels at them for going against the status-quo orthodoxy of elites.

          “By the way I’d like to point out that you’re accusing someone of making convoluted arguments whilst also claiming that a referendum would be anti-democratic.”

          Yes, a second referendum would be anti-democratic, because the question has already been democratically settled. People knew what they were voting for two years ago – and a majority decided Leave. Due to pusillanimous Tories – chiefly, Theresa May – who have repudiated the very terms of exit she announced for Brexit, the original People’s Vote has been obstructed.

          Try again.

          • Alex says

            I have a sneaking suspicion that you haven’t read the article.

        • Defenstrator says

          God people like you are arrogant. One group of society actually values liberty over security and it because you are the opposite they must be stupid and selfish.

          Maybe you are stupid and selfish for trying subsume your liberal democracy into a mega state.

          The truth is the UK is perfectly able to do well in either case. As an independent you managed to build the largest empire ever known, i don’t see you falling apart because you’te not part of a club that only half the people in Europe seem to want.

          • I agree, Europe has a death wish, I read this morning that after Trump imposed trade sanctions on Iran, to try to prevent them acquiring nuclear weapons. The EU now has agreed to honour all the trade deals the US ended, to the tune of 8 billion US dollars. Despite Iran spending one billion dollars a year funding terrorism in Europe.

            The EU is literally paying for attacks on their own citizens. The globalist evil has no bounds.

        • Edward Alder says

          You and your friends voted leave. Anyone who does not vote thereby agrees to abide by the view of the majority. Thus, the outcome was not 52/48 as often reported. It was 52% of the 72% that voted, plus the 28% who agreed to follow the 52%, ie 65.5%. Personally, I think voting should be compulsory as in Australia (which might well have produced the opposite result in the 2016 referendum) but so long as that is not the law the position is as I have stated.

        • Old BS says

          “By the way I’d like to point out that you’re accusing someone of making convoluted arguments whilst also claiming that a referendum would be anti-democratic.” I believe Stephanie did not say that: she said the goal was undemocratic. True.

        • The stench of entitlement is enough to make you gag. We had a vote, we knew what we were voting for, you ;lost. If you and your friends, who are presumably as bigoted as you, didn’t vote, that’s your problem

    • Bode O’Toole says

      A lot of words to say, ‘I want what I want!’

      The government presented a position paper on our options for leaving the EU in March 2016. The electorate were well informed when the referendum took place and it was made clear that political control came at economic cost.

      There is no rationale for another referendum other than the fact one doesn’t agree with the result. If militant remain voters such as Femi, Adonis, Miller, Grayling and others hadn’t continued campaigning and had instead accepted the result and focused instead on the best possible way to implement it, we might not be facing the extremes of Brexit.

      If there is another referendum and leave voters are rightly aggrieved, I’m sure this well reasoned explanation of why they’ve been disenfranchised will pacify them.

      Most leave voters believe the EU suffers from a democratic deficit. It is perhaps fitting that in order to keep us in the EU, Remainers have to justify overturning the largest democratic vote in history.

    • @Kevin Herman,

      I agree in school yard parlance, they are very sore losers.
      A second referendum will confirm to the British and the world that the UK is no longer a democratic nation.
      The article (the author admits to being a remainer) suggests “the stupid public didn’t understand.”
      I believe the public understand exactly :
      Leave, a vote for a return to sovereignty.
      Remain, a vote against the nation state, democracy and a desire to be ruled by foreign elites.

    • Richard Phillips says

      Kevin – read the article. This is exactly the set of arguments that the article examines and disembles. By all means critique the ideas in the article, but you are just repeating the premise it has examined and destroyed. As such, you point adds nothing to the debate. q

    • Erica from Minnesota says

      You’re spot on. If democracies run by elites don’t like the will of the people…just ignore the will of the people until the people submit to the will of the elites.

  2. Gordon says

    Arrant sophistry. A bad argument made in bad faith by someone who is looking for any device, however dubious, to stop Brexit and democracy be damned.

    • A C Harper says

      Exactly. Either an argument made in bad faith or an argument unconsciously founded on biased thinking.

      Her Majesties Government undertook to implement the ‘advice’ of the Referendum, so at best a second referendum should be about the method of leaving with no mention of Remain. Or we should have another General Election where leaving or remaining is included in the manifestos (except we have already done that any the only party to campaign on Remain didn’t do well).

  3. E. Olson says

    So with all the major media and major party leadership, EU leadership, and President Obama providing £Billions worth of “promotion and advertising” for the Remain side by suggesting the Brexiters were deplorable racists and xenophobes, and that leaving would be an economic disaster, the Remain side still lost in a free and “fair” election. Then the Prime Minister, whose heart clearly isn’t devoted to the Brexit, “negotiates” the most odorous exit agreement possible with an EU bureaucracy who clearly are working for the Remain side by playing hardball in the negotiations, and now the UK should have another vote based on this terrible deal where the alternative is to Remain? Sounds exactly like Democracy in action.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Sounds like the Crimean referendum where the choices were to join Russia voluntarily or join Russia involuntarily.

  4. Constantin says

    I believe this argument to be profoundly dishonest and a blatant attempt to confuse a very simple matter. First of all no real “options” can be presented to the voters because there are no such “options”. The writer hopes to pave the way for a making a referendum unmanageable in complexity with the added bonus that speculating about specific potential as opposed to real downsides would dissuade some voters from making a hard choice. The Brexit vote was exactly what a referendum should be like: we want in or out – and regardless how dishonest the advocates on either side may have been, there was plenty of public debate and time to have it all discussed and analyzed ad nausea so that people could form an opinion. This is all a barely disguised attempt to overturn the results of the previous referendum. I am disgusted and appalled by this poor advocacy passing the test for publication in Quillette. Sorry, but this is one of the worst propaganda pieces that you ever published and a poor way to start 2019. 🙁

    • Angela says

      Whoa calm down buddy. Unlike Salon or Huffpo Quillette actually beliefs in posting diverse viewpoints. An article being posted here in no way means Quillette is endorsing it’s opinion.

      • DeplorableDude says

        I’m not sure that this article has any diverse viewpoints. It felt more like a guy desperately trying to find some reason for a do over. He never presented what I would call rational argument. Of course he is a lawyer…..

        • It’s an example of the “artificial” reasoning Coke associated with the common law. You have to be a common law lawyer to truly appreciate it. I’m surprised Connolly left out the expected references to the Year Books, Institutes and obscure statutes from the reign of Edward III.

      • Old BS says

        “Angela”, I agree. I think it is called free speech and expands the debate. Thank you.

    • DrJack says

      Seriously, what’s people’s problem with reading things they might think unreasonable? Do you want to just read what you agree with? What’s the point then? I admire Quillette for not endorsing a particular viewpoint based on belonging to a political tribe.

    • Sarah Allsop says

      Wholeheartedly agree that this is a profoundly dishonest article. Whenever we are asked to vote for something, we never know all the details up front of what we are getting. When I voted for Obama in 2008, for example, I did not get what I expected, but we didn’t go back and say, whoa, I’d like a redo of the 2008 election please. The spirit of Brexit is to leave the EU. The politicians must figure out how to deliver what the people voted for, not run a second referundum. It’s insulting to the British people.

  5. Robin C Kulle says

    Good article. It’s great to see some diversity here. I like Quillette and it often provides interesting and necessary Counterarguments to the mainstream, but it should remember to include all sides as well. Commenters need to realize that not everything they disagree with is propaganda and shouldn’t be on here. As JS Mill said in defense of free speech:
    “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” If I were British I would have voted remain, but I still do not want a second referendum. However, this article treated the issue fairly and made some good points. I would add to the contra-referendum arguments that you would create a bad precedent for future referendums, after which governments would have an incentive to present the public with a badly designed revised option to get the result they prefer.

    • Stephanie says

      @Robin, I agree we shouldn’t expect Quillette publications to always match our viewpoints (not that they do), but I think your last point is key. This author, for all we know, wrote this article the day after the 2016 referendum. It was entirely foreseeable that the Remainers would not accept the results of the referendum, negotiate a bad deal, then suggest a more carefully-designed referendum designed to split the Leave vote.

      I agree with people above that this is an argument made in bad faith. It’s dismissive of serious concerns and feighs ignorance about the inherently antidemocratic nature of the argument in an embarrassing way. Propaganda is a loaded term, but since this is a part of the ruling elite’s attempt to subvert the will of the people, I think the term is quite appropriate.

      It still has a place here, because no one can tear such arguments apart like Quillette commentators. It’s good for us to hear their side (predictable as it is), so we can argue it. When most mainstream news sites have gotten rid of comment boards, that is useful in and of itself.

      • Alistair says

        Yes, it’s good to read articles from the best the other side has to offer.

        To paraphrase JS Mill, the Remainer Mr Conolly has done me a service. Now I am more convinced against him, because he tells me nothing I haven’t already considered and dismissed, and ignores my stronger points in turn.

  6. I understand why it may be thought anti-democratic to fail to follow the result of an advisory referendum without another referendum although it is illogical. I ant understand why holding a second referendum can be seen as anything but democratic. Brexiteers are deeply hypocritical on this if referendum are forever valid then why did we have a leave referendum at all and Farage himself was quite open that if as expected he lost then he would campaign for another. A second referendum makes sense because despite endless assertions about how strong the UKs negotiating position is, how easy negotiations would be and how fantastic a leaving deal would be available the actual deal negotiated is almost universally disliked. Another referendum is simply a sensible measure to try to resolve this.

    Overall the mess confirms my view that referendum are an extremely bad idea. They confer power with no responsibility for delivery. If they are to make a big change they should only do so with a large majority. In practice in the uk they seem particularIlyich I’ll advised deciding major constitutional issues on razor thin margins.

    • Stephanie says

      @AJ, you don’t see what’s undemocratic about making people vote again until the elites get the result they want?

      You don’t realise making a bad deal was always the plan, in service to that goal?

      The author disingenuously ignores the most relevant example: in Canada, it was decided that a 50+% majority was sufficient for Quebec to separate. Why Quebec, the heart of Canada, could separate with 50%, but the UK, a sovereign island nation, cannot separate from the EU is of course never addressed in this article.

      • Emily says

        The Remainer argument that it should need a supermajority to change the constitution is absurd. Maastricht, Nice and Lisbon were all written in with a vote of 0.0%.

      • Saw file says

        @Stephanie
        Yes, quite disingenuous. Especially whilst making a point about regional succession from a country.
        I think we both know why the author didn’t example the Quebec succession.
        There where two referendums, and even with bizarre question phrasing (such as he obviously proffers), the Provincial ruling ‘elites’ lost both of them.
        (Note: these referendums where not national)

        The 1980 Referendum question:

        “The Government of Quebec has made public its proposal to negotiate a new agreement with the rest of Canada, based on the equality of nations; this agreement would enable Quebec to acquire the exclusive power to make its laws, levy its taxes and establish relations abroad – in other words, sovereignty – and at the same time to maintain with Canada an economic association including a common currency; any change in political status resulting from these negotiations will only be implemented with popular approval through another referendum; on these terms, do you give the Government of Quebec the mandate to negotiate the proposed agreement between Quebec and Canada?”

        This ‘proposal’ to pursue secession was defeated by a 59.56 percent to 40.44 percent margin.

        Fifteen years later we get another BEAUTY…

        The 1995 Referendum question:

        “Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?”

        This was the largest voter turnout in Quebec’s history (93.52%) and was decided by the slimmest of margins. The “No” option carried by 54,288 votes (50.58%).

        These referendums took place after decades of the ruling ‘elites’ (political/intellectual/labour/media) grooming the unwashed masses within the Province of Quebec to vote as they were meant to.
        All the usual post-referendum nitpicking, by both sides, followed both of these votes.

        • Saw file says

          @Stephanie
          I must point out that, although the separatist government of Quebec decided that a 50%+ would be enough to decide, the rest of the country disagreed. This Provincial succession issue would have to have been put to a national vote. Canadians would never have allowed their country to be torn apart by a vote in a single province. IMO
          The Supreme Court of Canada later made this all mute, by ruling a unilateral declaration of independence based on a referendum was illegal.

    • Defenstrator says

      I have to say my feelings are quite the contrary. Referendums seem a very good way for the populace to force a political establishment that is on lock step on issues be forced to address their concerns.

  7. C. Leslie says

    Even the term “People’s Vote” is highly questionable. As if leave voters are not part of ‘the people’.

    The claim in this article that “holding a second referendum would not be contrary to the spirit of the 2015 Act” is disingenuous. The author knows that the public was offered an in/out choice, and chose out. Offering now an in/half-out choice is not acceptable.

    It’s hard to escape the feeling that elite UK and EU remainers have deliberately fudged this ‘deal’ to avoid delivering on brexit.

  8. Farris says

    The author’s argument(s) is part of an over all strategy. This strategy has been to slow walk Brexit until the polls indicated the “Stay” position had a probability of winning. Lest we not forget, before the election we were told that the Brits understood your issues and that “Stay” would win by a wide margin.
    Well the damn voters did not do as they were told so now there must be a second election. The old “keep voting until they get it right” proposition. Would the author endorse a 3rd vote if “Stay” wins but the “Leave” proponents put forth similar arguments? Doubtful. There has been an ongoing strategy to make “Leave” unattractive and then when the time is right call for a re-vote. Apparently the author thinks the time is now.
    The author maintains the people failed to fully comprehend the consequences of Leave. This is disingenuous. Britain could always leave the EU and if the aftereffects prove untenable then vote to re-enter. The author prefers voters never actually experience the results of leaving. Why?
    The author’s arguments for the poor idea of re-voting are nothing more than sprinkling sugar on a turd and calling it candy.

    • Stephanie says

      @Assistant Village Idiot,

      I agree we shouldn’t assume bad motives without evidence, but the author does provide us with evidence. His suggestion that they do another referendum that splits the Leave vote tips his hand: he wants to do a do-over, where the vote is structured such that it is impossible for Leave to win again. His motives for that can be nothing except for reversing the “people’s choice” he claims to care so much about.

  9. Roger W says

    Surely, having had the original vote, the only reasonable second vote is the choice between May’s deal and a no deal exit.
    Recent polling (in the British press today) indicates a strong preference for no deal over May’s deal, but I suspect that wouldn’t fit the author’s wishes, so some rigged vote to get the result he wants is needed.
    Such a shame so many deplorables have the vote, isn’t it!

  10. Heike says

    The entire point of the British Government’s botching of the negotiations was to come to this point so they could have a second vote and it would come out correctly this time. A lot of us predicted this back in 2016. Lo and behold it’s happened.

    The basic problem with today’s politics all over the West is that the people aren’t having their needs fulfilled by elites. There’s this sense that “we know better, shut up while we rule you.” Populism would disappear overnight if elites stole their positions. But apparently they’d rather die than change one iota: see France. Their elites have no intention whatsoever of giving the protesters anything but scraps. Every piece in the media treats the protesters like The Other.

    • E. Olson says

      Its all about follow the money. Lots of money is available for politicians who are pro-immigration and pro-EU, which can be used to hopefully fool enough voters to keep in power.

      • Of course it’s all about the money, in accepted terms of Modern Warfare England is already a successfully invaded country. They have lost their capital city, the house of the monarch, London is over ran by foreigners and ruled by a foreign mayor who worships a foreign god.
        Game Over
        Reset.
        The elites know this. They just want to keep the population asleep a little longer.

        It’s not just money, it’s also about power. The changes in politics in every western nation is very telling, the further right the popular vote becomes the further left the politicians run.

        The culture wars show the direction the elites are planning. Tommy Robinson is booked for a talking tour in my country. We currently have a conservative government that pushes for gay rights and global warming agreements is being told by the left to ban Tommy and the conservatives are likely to agree.

        And yet only a couple of decades ago the left would have loved a working class man who was standing up against the rape of children.

        The message my politicians are sending is that decency is a value of the past and it’s time to invest your retirement funds in a hobby farm.

  11. Evander says

    “People’s Vote” is a nakedly propagandistic term. As numerous objectors to a second referendum have pointed out, participants in the first weren’t animals. And the irony of the Lords, MPs, academics, high-paid journalists and other disproportionately Leave-voting elites – who said that the 2016 referendum was bloody final – urging the moral need for a People’s Vote isn’t lost on me. These people call themselves democrats? Drop the weasel words.

    ‘Similarly, the question asked in the 2016 referendum was general: While Remain meant one thing, Leave meant a number of possible things.‘

    No, it meant a small number of clearly articulated, non-negotiable specific things: resumption of parliamentary and juridical sovereignty, and exit from the Customs Union and Single Market. Every other issue was secondary and resolvable through Britain’s internal political machinery.

    Let me put it bluntly: you lost and now you’re spitting the dummy.

    As someone who went to a school steeped in the British tradition, I was educated to be scrupulously fair and accepting in regards to decisions determined by legitimate authorities, not least in the sphere of sport. I’m saddened to see this bedrock ethic coming unstuck because mosty upperclass bastards didn’t get their way – a deviation from their usual experience of life.

    Your hubris is presently the strongest argument for the democratic system.

    Elites stink.

  12. Zaru says

    British like the author remind me of the arrogant twits in the movie Remains of the Day. Whenever Brexit comes up I’m reminded of this scene (edited a bit for brevity):

    ———————————————————-

    American politician: Listen to the opinions of your man in the street. They’re perfectly entitled to give an opinion on politics or whatever questions…

    Upper class British snob: They’ve got no qualifications!

    American: Of course they have!

    Snob: Mr. Spencer [the butler] would like a word with you. My good man, I have a question for you. Do you suppose the debt situation regarding America factors significantly in the present low levels of trade? Or is this a red herring and the abandonment of the gold standard is the cause of the problem?

    Butler [knowing his social place and unwilling to speak up]: I’m sorry, sir, but I am unable to be of assistance in this matter.

    Snob: Oh, dear. What a pity…

    Snob: One moment, Darlington, I have another question to put to our good man here. My good fellow do you share our opinion that M. Daladier’s recent speech on North Africa was simply a ruse to scupper the nationalist fringe of his own domestic party?

    Butler: I’m sorry, sir. I am unable to help in any of these matters.

    Snob: You see, our good man here is “unable to assist us in these matters.” Yet we still go along with the notion that this nation’s decisions be left to our good man here…

    ———————————————————-

    The funny thing is the snob is portrayed negatively, yet the Remainers are now making the very same arguments with their comments on elderly, rural, and Northern voters. I don’t think European elites want the masses to vote, as you see when the constant attacks on “populism”.

    • Elitists are definitely seeing democracy “on the nose ” and not just in Britain but in every western democracy.

  13. Jim South says

    This article is well written and presents sophisticated arguments in favour of holding a second referendum. I think it warrants publication in Quillette. Nevertheless, it’s merely a piece of legalistic legerdemain.

    The author’s proposal for a referendum offering three voting options (namely, vote for Theresa May’s negotiated deal, or for a no-deal Brexit, or for remaining in the EU) would split the leave vote into two camps, thus enabling the remain vote to prevail.

    Supporters of May’s deal would be denied the opportunity to vote for a no-deal Brexit in the event of May’s deal not receiving the most votes. Likewise, supporters of a no-deal Brexit would be denied the opportunity to vote for May’s deal in the event of a no-deal Brexit not receiving the most votes. This disenfranchising of voters would not apply to remain supporters, as their preferred option would receive the most votes, despite the likely absence of a majority supporting that option. Thus, the minority would prevail over the majority, which I suspect is what the author wishes to occur.

    • Alistair says

      Jim,

      Yes, it’s such an obvious legerdemain, I laughed. There’s a lot of game theory and Public Choice economics for this class of decision problem which Mr Conolly is probably pig-ignorant of, but I enjoyed his kindergarten attempt to strategically bind me.

      Mr Conolly thinks he is clever, and that his opponents are all stupid rubes. But he’s not. And we’re not either. But a certain class of cosmopolitan Remainer seems to run on a self-congratulatory sense of moral and intellectual superiority without ever engaging the best arguments of the other side. We have a good example above.

    • I couldn’t hope but notice that the author is a lawyer. As the current British police spend more time seeking the people who are guilty of legal speech that offended someone, than to normal black and white incidents like who stabbed who, and considering the EU has now determined that criticism of Muhammad (even if truthful) is now a criminal offence (check out the Austrian test case) Then of course the author knows there’s lots of money to be made as a remainer.
      His article barely disguises his fear that if there is a second referendum it might be worded in a way to deny the opportunity to cash in on those lengthy court cases between people (with hard earned savings) over what their dog did, who saw and who was offended etc.

      And return to the slim pickings of defending an unemployed 20 year old acid thrower.

  14. Certainly the UK and other countries suffer from a variety of EU actions and inactions, but I have always felt that the UK would have been better off staying and making common cause with others to improve things. I am still convinced that leaving without a deal would be catastrophic for the UK and that the EU has no reason to make the UK departure anything other than painful.

    That said, I find it interesting that the vote was in fact non-binding and, based on the analysis by the author, see no point in another referendum when UK voters can vote on the terms of departure by voting for or against May depending on what deal is finalized. Of course, by that time it would probably be too late to get a better deal but perhaps this logic might convince May to stay and take her chances.

    • Alistair says

      OWG,

      Respectfully, we (the UK) have been bleating about EU reform for over 25 years. It’s not been something we just thought of yesterday. God knows the UK tried to fix the EU from the inside; subsidiarity, de-regulation, subsidy reduction, accountability, transparency…. etc….etc….etc…

      We failed. Our outcome record is dreadful. We lose more votes in the Council than any other country. None of the structural issues with the EU are fixed. Rather, they’ve got worse despite our best efforts.

      There’s a point at which reasonable people must realise you can’t fix it from the inside and that staying longer binds you to its dysfunctional fate.

      • @ Alistair
        Well said I wish I could like.
        I know so many British ex-pats who moved to my country in the 70’s because the EEC had destroyed their standard of living. The loss of the ability to put a joint of NZ lamb or a roasted piece of Australian beef on the Sunday dinner table literally ripped out the guts of men who worked all week for their family.

        They came to Australia and NZ, Aussie farmers were forced to trade with China, whose culture were alien and whose language put us at a disadvantage.

        Quickly the industries in the UK, Australia, and even the US were replaced by China.. And the factories of the west closed.

        The EU, is solely responsible for the dangerous geo-politics that now allow China to openly shoot at American planes and ships in neutral waters.

        The people of France rebel while Macron sits in an Ivovory tower that actually is an old world palace.

        Those that don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

        But the next revolution will be fought with nukes and final survivors will fight with sticks and stones.

  15. Morti says

    UK staying in EU and Corbyn PM would be the most fun scenario to watch from abroad. Possibly more explosive for the EU than a hard Brexit.

  16. Mike TA says

    It would be interesting if when people comment on articles like this if they said what coutry that they were from, not because people should not have transnational opinions, but it gives a bit of context. So, me: British, voted Remain (with no great enthusiasm, but the alternative seemed far worse). Early 60s, retiring shortly, sold fairly upmarket house, renting, money in bank. At a personal level, I believe exit from the EU (especially a no-deal exit) would be to my advantage; economy will tank, interest rates will rise, house prices will drop sharply, and I can buy back into the housing market and do very nicely thank you. But, I have offspring and I don’t want the country screwed for them.

    Anyway, a bit of context that is not in the article. David Cameron, then then Conservative PM called the referendum not to decide whether the UK should stay in the EU; he pretty clearly expected a Remain majority. The real reason was to lance the long-running boil (from his point of view) in the Conservative party, the large (but not majority) of noisily anti-EU Conservative MPs and members. This was why the referendum required only 50%; any larger requirement to leave would have allowed the Brexiteers to cry foul. Unfortunately for him he lost his gamble.

    So Teresa May (who happened to be the political chancer in the best position) took over, and (like any such politician) immediately switched from remain supporting to a we-must-respect-the-will-of-the-people. To suggest that the deal that has been negotiated is some long-running scam to get support back to Remain on the basis of how awful that deal is, is to be unaware of the internal workings of the Conservative Party (basically, personal position first, party second, and the electorate a poor third). And thus, we have the total train wreck.

    The real crunch is when parliament, as seems likely, votes down the deal (and to the Brexiteers shouting “will of the people” I’d point out that one of their arguments as to “return sovereignty to parliament”). The EU are not going to budge further, and why should they? If this forces a general election and Labour did win, they will try to get a new deal, but I really cannot see that happening, so that would change nothing. The *only* way out of the log jam is a second referrendum, with the three options on the ballot (remain, the deal, hard Brexit) with preferential voting.

    If that happens and the vote is to exit or the deal, I doubt many Remainers will argue; they will be very unhappy. But at least the “will of the people” will have had a real expression, rather than the original fake. And I, at least, will anticipate being able to pick over the entrails.

    • Evander says

      Mike, Cameron called a referendum because of the joint efforts of a charismatically led UKIP – no mention in your post – alongside articulate internal critics of the EU like Rees-Mogg and Hannan. Their message was gaining serious traction with a population fed up with uncontrolled immigration and its attendant stresses on society – to say nothing of the annual membership fees, economic regulations, and the effront to British sovereignty. People twigged to the fact that the EU was a bureaucratic leviathan that squashed nation-states whenever dissent arose; and so EU scepticism became popular. Hence, Cameron was fairly and squarely urged into a referendum through the political pressure of elected representatives who persuaded much of the public that a vote on the EU would be a good thing. That’s democracy.

      Just because partisan motives and an assumed particular result might have been mixed into the creation of the referendum, it doesn’t follow that the mechanism is somehow ‘fake’. People voted and a clear result was achieved. I haven’t read a single commentator label either the 2016 vote itself or the result as ‘fake’. Seems awfully condescending and anti-democratic to me.

      No Deal is what people voted for and what people should get. The Lords, the Guardian, London et al. should stop their sophistry, cop the result and bugger off. Democracy, contra elite wishes took place, and so-called liberals are stunned that they lost.

      Brexit and Democracy are synonyms.

      • Mike TA says

        Sure, the “joint efforts of …..” led to the referendum. They were the group that Cameron wanted to silence, in the sense of demonstrating that they did not command a majority in the electorate. It backfired, though it is quite ironic that just before the referendum Farage was saying that if it went 48/52 to Remain then there would have to be another referendum to settle the matter.

        I can’t agree that people voted for “no deal”. A lot of the Brexit campaign told people how easy it would be to get a deal, how good that deal would be, etc. No doubt some people voted for “no deal” but a whole lot of people voted in the expectation of some sort of deal. Also ironic is that decade or so ago Ress-Mogg was saying that there would have to be two referenda, one to see if the UK should consider leaving the UK and a second on the terms.

        • Evander says

          People understood Brexit to mean full withdrawal from the supranational polity that is the EU so that Britain regained her sovereignty. A No Deal outcome guarantees Brexit in essence. A deal then would only have meant determining second-tier issues. May’s deal compromised on the core of Brexit; it should be rejected outright.

          You still haven’t justified your claim that the original was fake.

          The uninformed electorate talking point is BS and snobbish.

          Remain lost and Leave won. Why oppose democracy?

    • @ Mike TA

      I make no effort to disguise my comments are from Australia, which makes me more British than the British, being where the best of the British now live, lol, of course.
      Of course the world is interested look above at my comments regarding how the EU is funding terrorism in Europe via Iran, and I might add financially funding Turkey, whilst how it has been empowering China over the west since the days of the EEC.

      I know at your age you want your pension secure. Perhaps you think you’re grandkids are fine. They are so cute, the status quo, when you voted remain did you care about the world, the remains of the British Empire who share your queen?

      If you don’t like the comments from other countries don’t read them. But the rest of the world will judge you anyway.

      God bless you and enjoy your pension while it lasts, but I think your money will soon be given to the imports who will replace you.

  17. Alistair says

    Mr Conolly is an archetypical remainer; technocratic, elitist, distant from the general population, and utterly, utterly, incapable of seeing his own bias. Perhaps that’s just to be expected in a good brief. But his political and moral tone-deafness grates.

    There is so much to detest here, but I’ll pick up on just one point; betrayal and civil unrest. Mr Conolly argues that the population should have no sense of betrayal because they should have recognised the governments promise to them was not the governments to make? (Despite no-one mentioning this before the vote). Seriously?

    Perhaps you might make this argument before the bar or at the Master’s table after a particularly good Tokaji, but how far up your own legal backside to you have to be that politically and morally obtuse? In the real world it will be see as voter negation. In the real world it will be seen as betrayal. In the real world behaviour like this has consequences. Deeply unpleasant consequences.

    For the avoidance of any possible doubt in the days to come, Mr Conolly should be aware of just how far millions (and millions) of Brexiteers will go if denied their prize. Now, I am personally a man of moderation and good will. But I can’t help but wonder what a bit of civil disorder will do to the business of his London bar and house price. I wonder what a Corbyn Labour government would do to his precious city finances and banks. I wonder what happens when millions of voters permanently desert a useless democratic centre in search of solutions elsewhere. I wonder what happens – heavens forbid – if the population realises that voting on the great issues of state is meaningless and turns to violence as a means of political action. I wonder.

    • Alan says

      Wow. And you accuse Remainers of throwing their toys out the pram. But a bit of violence to make a Leavers point? Perfectly acceptable!

      • Alistair says

        Alan, I am personally a man of moderation and goodwill. Political violence is a horrible thing. That’s why we settle our differences by voting, right?

        But…you know….I don’t speak for everyone. I can’t guarantee that undoing Brexit by legal legerdemain (or being merely perceived to do so) won’t have…..consequences. How much risk to UK long-term political stability are you willing to take to preserve EU membership at this point?

        • Mike TA says

          Well, there are various possibilities here. One is that that there is a new referendum and a remain vote, in which case, yes, a whole lot of people are going to be very angry. Another is that there is a hard Brexit (with or without a referendum) in which case a whole lot of those people are going to be very angry when they realise they have been suckered, not to mention another lot of people who will be very angry and saying, roughly, “told you so”. How much risk to UK long-term political stability are you willing to take either way?

          Unfortunately, my crystal ball is murkey ….

          • Alistair says

            Mike,

            After a hard Brexit, things, nothing much will happen. The BBC will make the most of the odd queue and specific industries will grumble about tariffs or disruption. 90% of people won’t notice any effect in their day to day lives unless they look really closely. After about 6 months the short term disruption will be over as work-arounds, compensation, and substitutes are found and the country will go on pretty much as before. The short-term effects on GDP will be barely out of the noise.

            Pretty much all Brexiteers will be happy, and most Remainers will say “this isn’t too bad – I wonder what all the fuss was about”. Some Remainers will be very angry, having being proven wrong about Project Fear, again.

            See how easy it is to make political prognostications on the back of economic projections?

            Anyway, your main error is you think political stability is driven entirely by economic considerations, and that politics is a game of simply maximising GDP. Remain went hard-in on the economy during the referendum (what happened to our emergency budget and recession, by the way?). It didn’t work out so well. People care about other things than money; not least sovereignty and the quaint notion that voting in a democracy should, you know, have an effect.

            Or to put it bluntly, I don’t think many Remainers will riot, permanently change their votes, or remove themselves from democratic politics if the UK quits the EU. The outcome would be broadly viewed as morally/politically legitimate, even if disliked by many. I wouldn’t say the same for the millions that voted to leave if the reverse happens and the UK remains in. I reject your argument of symmetry.

          • @ Mike Ta

            Hello from Australia,
            This morning I turned on my phone and read that the ABC (a totally new Marxist propaganda machine feeding of the blood of the Australian tax payer, no licence required)
            Reported that extreme right winged nasty people had peacefully gathered on St. Kildas Beach. They reported three arrests (antifa people of course)

            I went to YouTube and I cried as I watched my fellow Australians of European descent speak into megaphones on the beach, the fought over beach where the “men of African appearance ” gather.

            And on the very edge of what was once a vast and wonderful continent, thousands gathered to hear the call, the Australians of European descent will be heard.

            In the nineteenth century Britain sent us all the men who were willing to face the cannon to fight for the voting rights of working men. They were sent here as convicts in chains. After World War II , you sent us your best so they could be replaced by immigrants. Britain teach well how much they care about their fellow friends, we watch South Africa, the whites tortured and destroyed.

            Our Poms, remember agincourt, and criticize what the French did in ww2 ,we always remember it was America who saved us in that war.

            I tackle the snake who lives under my washing machine every morning, without any fear and going outside means encountering deadly bats the size of eagles, who behave like monkeys, every time I go outside after dusk, you British are so weak you have been recorded as an international joke, in the song, “Mad Dogs And Englishman Go Out In The Midday Sun”
            We watch as the weaklings drink Earl Grey and whinge and whine about what they want.
            It’s quite amusing to people who are still strong every day .

        • Stephanie says

          “Political violence is a horrible thing. That’s why we settle our differences by voting, right?”

          Exactly. But the moment it becomes clear to enough people that their votes will never count, violence is the last recourse. It’s like the Democrats threatening to dismantle the electoral college: try it and see. The British might be disarmed, but as we’ve learnt you can still cause a lot of trouble with vans, knives, and sheer numbers. Strip people of their vote, their voice, and their country at your own peril.

          If you find that distasteful, respect the vote.

    • @ Alistair

      It won’t matter London is taken, regroup in the north, be careful, it was tried in the Norman conquest ,predicted, and failed.

      Just how it’s perceived from a distance .
      Don’t be the frog who stays in the saucepan too long, look to your own and your own plan B if it all goes to hell.

      God bless.

      • Alistair says

        In extremis, the Remainer areas are too urban, small, post-industrial, and lack mutual support. They have broad but shallow acclaim such that their elites can’t muster significant manpower willing to die in support of Claude von Drunker and their cheap costa coffee. The officer corp will be divided, but most rank-and-file will be with Leave, as will the majority of constables. Many Remainers will flee to Brussels and their Commissioner over the Water rather than take to the colours.

        Scotland has no animus for offensive action and merely requires screening (may have to let them go – not important). We consolidate the north and midlands and march down the M6. Most of the real fighting will be about the M3/M4 corridor to sever the links to Bristol and the channel ports. Exercises in Kesselschlacht and siege. Final assault on London will be along the estuary using our militias from strongholds in Essex, Norfolk and northern Kent.

        *post not entirely serious for the benefit of the interwebs*. 🙂

    • David Murphy says

      Outstandingly put and mean I don’t have to write anything beyond well said.

  18. Yolanda says

    So a referendum result should stand even though people were lied to? With foreign collusion and interference in the UK’s democratic process? With all polls showing the majority would now vote Remain? Brexit should go ahead despite knowing the monumental harm and extortionate cost it will do to the country? And Remainers should just accept it because it’s such a shining example of democracy? What a pile of self sacrificing tosh.

    • Evander says

      Impeccable parroting of anti-Brexit, anti-democracy talking points.

      The Remain side didn’t lie, did they?

      Obama didn’t intervene, did he?

      A majority actually meant to vote Leave in 2016, didn’t they?

      $50 billion in membership fees alone, coupled with loss of national sovereignty is better than the democratically affirmed alternative, isn’t it?

      People shouldn’t accept majoritarian votes, should they?

    • Stephanie says

      Yolanda, just like the polls predicted that Remain would win the first time? Lies, like that the sky will fall if the UK leaves?

      Remainers should accept the results of the election because they had decades to make the EU work, they failed, and they lost the referendum despite having stacked the deck in every possible way. Besides, anyone for whom being European is more important than being British can simply move to Europe.

    • Defenstrator says

      As an outsider I see little difference in the lies of each side. The Remainers refuse to admit the goal is a European superstate in which there is no national sovereignty at all, and the leavers refuse to admit their only concern is liberty and they din’t Care about the economic problems that might be caused.

    • Mark Beal says

      The real lie is the one of omission some 45 years ago when Britain joined what was then commonly called “the Common Market”. The EEC, as then was, was portrayed as exactly that, a benign common market. Yet even at the time it was perfectly well understood by Ted Heath and the others who wanted to join that the ultimate goal of “the Common Market” was a federal European state with political and monetary union. There are documents in the National Archives at Kew that make this clear.

      This was never made properly clear to the British people at the time, not even during the 1975 referendum, and the Euro-enthusiasts, along with whatever naïve people they’ve managed to con along the way, have never admitted it, even though the development of the EEC into a European Union with its own flag, anthem, central bank, currency, external but no internal borders (except those maintained by Ireland and the UK) and the continued talk of “more Europe” including a pan-European military force demonstrates beyond any doubt that the end game is precisely a United States of Europe.

      This has always been the elephant in the room, and people who have their faculties about them have always understood this, but the europhiles have always given those people patronising taps on the head and told them that it’s all about trade, and only about trade.

      So talk about that lie, please, and then say whether or not you think the original decision to join was a meaningful democratic decision. Remaining in the EU means becoming no more than a region in a largely undemocratic Federal State (there is nothing to suggest that the EU wishes to become properly democratic) with no means of self-determination of any kind. Remainers should either stand up and state clearly in no uncertain terms that this is what they wish, or recognise that unlike the “low-information”, “unwashed” masses, they have been and continue to be duped on this issue.

      As for the “People’s Vote”. Every time I hear that phrase I think “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. Calling a potential second referendum a “people’s vote” is quite simply to protest too much. The people have already voted, and they voted to leave. If there is a second referendum it should be premised on that simple fact, whatever the choices put before the electorate.

  19. Alistair says

    As I said. I’m a reasonable and moderate man. I hate the thought of political violence. Terrible notion.

    But…but….a lot of people feel very strongly about this. Walk into any bar north of London. You hear otherwise sensible people saying…well….wild things….intemperate things. “Why should I ever bother voting again?”, “I’ll never vote X again”, “I’d put Corbyn in Number 10 just to spite them”, “if they marched on Parliament, I’d join them”. You know the latent anger at the political class, at the whole system. It hasn’t gone away.

    I’d just suggest perhaps we take UK political stability too much for granted in these…disordered times. Remainers should think very carefully about how much risk they are willing to take in putting the Brexit Genie back in the bottle.

    • David Murphy says

      Britain actually has a long tradition of such violence but it lessened over time so that by the 19th century it wasn’t thought of as a tradition. During the 19th century political violence’s became more of an elitist pastime – eg the Peterloo massacre.

      • Alistair says

        Yes, David. Good points.

        I have enough history and anthropology to know how violent politics can be, and how contingent our current peace is, and how unusual the UK democratic experience is.

        (Point of observation: If the archetypical Remainer is a Lawyer; the archetypical Leaver is a Historian or studied history. Check the backgrounds of characters on both side – its quite remarkable!)

        Anyway, the data says that supposedly “stable” political systems like the UK can collapse with very little warning. I fear the arch-Remainers are playing with fire and don’t realise it.

  20. scribblerg says

    What absurd nonsense, truly. First off – if we invalidated elections and referenda due to “dishonest” political messaging, no election would be valid. This point alone makes me wonder if Quillette edits it’s contributors? This statement alone is so dimwitted that I can’t believe I’m reading it.

    Campaign violation of $675,000 pounds? That’s worthy of a fine from your election commission, not overturning the results of an election.

    And now for a “specific” vote? Uh, listen up, you hack: You already had the specific election. It told the UK govt in no uncertain terms to leave the EU. That it didn’t specify what trade and other arrangements might be made next is irrelevant, and properly left to elected officials to manage.

    How did this garbage get published?

    • Mike TA says

      Did you actually read the article? The author specifically discounts “dishonest” campaigning as a reason for a second referendum; and discounts funding violations as a stand-alone reason.

      And, a 52/48 split when specific terms were not given? I think we must have different understandings of “uncertain”.

  21. Adjunct-Filth says

    Missing phrases of this sort in the comments: “Muslim tidal-wave”, “English survival” …

  22. Lee Floyd says

    Baffled, really, by this article and all others advocating a second referendum. Democracy relies upon the People believing their vote counts. If the one cast in 2016 doesn’t, why would one cast in 2019? Remember too, that the EU have never lost a referendum argument throughout their history, even when they lost the argument and the referendum. The nation hosting the abberent referendum found, or were shown, a way to negate it.

    Every time.

    Doesn’t this seem exactly like that?

    • I have no problem with this essay being published on Quillette. I just wish the author did a better job. He argued like he was talking to fellow remainers aka as preaching to the choir. He wouldn’t have a chance in hell of swaying any leaver with this.

    • Alistair says

      Yes. Exactly.

      The sheer number of negated, averted, or swiftly repeated referenda in EU history is horrifying to anyone who calls themselves a democrat. All of them – all of them – were twisted until the elite got the answer it wanted.

      If you knew nothing else about the EU, this alone should send you screaming.

    • Bill says

      Oh, you must be an uneducated, racist Nazi if you don’t get it. The vote was supposed to be pre-ordained Remain, you know, the like US election where Hillary was selected to beat Bernie in the primary and then whomever the GOP put up in the general election.

  23. Ginger says

    Let’s keep having votes until the people make the correct choice.

  24. If there is another vote then we know democracy is finished in the U.K.

  25. Steve says

    Dick: The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

  26. Ned Flanders says

    The United Kingdom: Centuries old parliamentary democracy; former great empire. Known as the birth place of free speech and the abolition movement. It gave us the Industrial Revolution, football and the Beatles. Held off the Nazis.

    And now we’re supposed to think it can’t stand on its own without the EU bureaucracy?

  27. Edward Alder says

    I tend to agree that in 2016 there should have been a requirement of a supermajority – but to stay in, not leave. The common market voted upon in the last referendum in 1975 was very different from the superstate that is now the EU. Further, with the EU, the status quo is not on offer. The EU is about relentless further pooling of sovereignty: an army, a diplomatic corps, common budget, etc. The UK public never had an opportunity to vote on the current arrangements, rather the country was just taken into them by politicians step by step. The UK has already surrendered a vast degree of the body of sovereignty that would be completely normal if not indispensable by countries such as Canada and Australia or somewhere rather different, say Japan. To validate the existing massive surrender of sovereignty and agree to keep surrendering more over time as seen fit by the government of the day should have required a super majority in favour.

    • Defenstrator says

      That is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. You must be a racist troglodyte to have a reasonable opinion like that. Everybody knows that when you join a free trade agreement it means you inevitably give up all your sovereignty as a country, and only stupid people who hate brown people would think otherwise. Completely insane people who think this is normal are the ones you should listen to because while they might not be reasonable, they’re not racist, and that’s the important question when determining what should be done.

      I’m not even being facetious. As a Canadian who has been around since the beginning of NAFTA, the idea that joining a trade agreement somewhi meant you lost national sovereignty over border, economic, monetary, and legal issues, always struck me as insane. I’d see Remainers argue that it was natural and the only way things could be, abd could not belueve they were completely ignorant of the agreement covering the whole North American continent.

  28. Tim D says

    A well argued piece. Voters were also assured by the 2011 European Union Act that there would be a second referendum on any future UK and EU Treaty or arrangement. I do not recall any of the Leave campaigns explicitly campaigning on removing this piece of legislation. Perhaps Leave voters can elucidate as to why?

    With the current deal and Parliament at an impasse an informed new referendum makes significantly more sense than many other solutions. Why would Leave voters object? They can still vote to Leave.

    • Evander says

      The 2011 act that you refer to was introduced by the Tories under Hague as a measure to shore up British sovereignty. In other words, it was a Eurosceptic piece of legislation designed to make it harder for power to drain to Brussels. Under the act, a referendum would have been required if parliament wanted to amend the legislation that governs the UK’s relationship with EU, so as to cede more sovereignty to Brussels. It had nothing to do with the 2016 referendum which was a simple In/Out vote.

      “With the current deal and Parliament at an impasse an informed new referendum makes significantly more sense than many other solutions. Why would Leave voters object? They can still vote to Leave.”

      How many times does it need to be stated? Brexit means full withdrawal from the EU. May’s deal is rubbish. No Deal is the most honest parliamentary course of action in response to the referendum. To hold a second referendum is to to repudiate democracy. The people spoke and are waiting very patiently for their political will to be obeyed and legislated.

      • Tim D says

        Read the piece- an advisory (2016) referendum in law. If you want to change it to binding it has to be by a Parliamentary Act. Or accept that it is binding and was therefore illegal because of electoral law (Vienna Commission). Check Hansard and D Liddington comments to Alex Salmond, during passage of Bill.

        It is not possible for a second referendum to be a betrayal of democracy because it is another vote by the same people. The people cannot betray the people. If you believe otherwise then democracy has indeed ended. You might like to check the franchise of the binding Scottish referendum of 2014. If you accept that a similar franchise should be used for a binding In/Out of the EU Ref then the one used fails dismally.

        The 2011 Act was a way for the British people to have a say on their new relationship with the EU. It acted as a check on any future Treaty powers. By accepting it’s withdrawl (which was not mentioned by Leave) the ‘people’ will accept whatever May comes back with period. Exactly what they voted for? You have interpreted to mean ‘full withdrawl’ from the EU. However no Leave campaign promoted complete trade detachment. How about the UK developing it’s own nukes? instead of US warheads? We don’t hear much about that or how to move Faslaine when the Scots go independent. Full sovereignty, fine just be prepared to pay for it and use military might to achieve it. Brexit will break the Union.

        My career has been creating exports for UK and UK based companies. Regrettably this will now be used against the UK’s manufacturers, because the manufacturing base will shrink to very poor levels of capability. It is what the Leavers wanted.

        • Alistair says

          Tim,

          Why are so many Remainers such fans of the law? It’s all law and no ethics with you people; any legal device will be employed to win, in manifest defiance of natural justice. And of course, your objections are only after the fact of your defeat.

  29. Donald Sievewright says

    The only option that offers a certainty of outcome is leave as per the current negotiated offer. No deal is uncertain for the reasons given (although the argument shows more than a hint of sophistry) within this context, but remain has exactly the same flaw.
    Miller’s case had the effect of very quickly forcing parliament to approve the result of the first vote, so the outcome moved from advisory to aproved by parliament. Parliament could choose to rescind this, but would any parliament vote against a referendum?
    It is disingenuous to submit after the vote that the margin for change should have been higher – maybe this should be the case in the future, but that should be discussed and decided before the vote. As far as I recall, little or nothing was made of the margin at the time, so is this sour grapes?
    The impact of no deal on the Irish border is indeed regrettable, but that is the only option left if the negotiated deal with the EU is unpalatable. If an agreement has to be broken, whether directly or by implication, there can be no better reason than as a result of a majotity vote by the voting public. This argumemt is again a little piece of sophistry.
    The vote to leave is past, but there is a valid point that possibly a second vote could be held as to whether no deal or the negotiated deal is preferable if parliament cannot come to a consensus.

  30. Sybil says

    By all means let’s have another referendum, but surely not until we’ve implemented the result of the first one. Put it on the statute books for 1st April 2035.

  31. Tibbles says

    I don’t know why people are losing sleep over Brexit. The EU in its current form is doomed. There is even the possibility that it won’t exist at all within 5 to 10 years or it will be broken up (perhaps East vs West or North vs South) . Surely a wait and see is the best strategy for the UK especially with EU elections coming up in May.

    • Alistair says

      I would prefer not to be on the ship when it sinks.

      Or rather, I worry that the collapse may be slow and painful for everyone still in the EU, and possibly violent, as the eiltes try to hold it together. Leave now, and make for safe distance.

  32. Steve says

    Looking more like the Irish vote on the Lisbon Treaty. If at first you don’t succeed, make them vote again.

  33. Charlie says

    Peter Shore explained much in his book “Separate Ways “. A significant part of the FCO had nervous breakdown over Suez and decided at all cost to join the EEC. Strikes were crippling Britain. Many of our best people – practical, skilled, innovative , determined, adaptable were killed in WW2 or emigrated. Amongst the middle and upper classes there are vast numbers of effete impractical types lacking vitality and these dominated The Law, politics, the media, civil service, academia , CBI, BBC. Lacking qualities which had created the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions they could only see decline for the UK. They are not an elite as they lack the leadership, creative skills to develop Britain, they are basically a Mandarin class who run the UK for their benefit.

    The only way they could see maintaining there affluent lifestyle was to join the EEC/EU. K Clarke and Heseltine are typical of the post Suez Tories.

    The EU is an attempt to re-create the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne which fell apart after his death.

    The major problems of the UK are easily fixed
    1. We need to copy the technical education of Germany Switzerland.
    2. The Welfare state should be based on producing self reliant people not reliant on the State. We should look at other countries where the dole is only for a few years and housing benefits are only for married couples.
    3. We should examine other countries health services, basically people have to pay to visit doctors and have national and private medical insurance whose prices are limited.
    4. Reduce complexity of taxation- perhaps only tax dividends.
    5. Develop shale oil and gas.

    Ibn Khaldun said countries decline because of a lack of solidarity and vitality. The influential opinion formers have created a UK which benefits them but they lack the the vitality, technical skills, imagination, drive, determination of those like Clive of India, the officers of the RN, Newcomen, A Darby, Turnip Townsend, J Tull and those who created the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions.

    Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous seas of liberty.

    If ye prefer wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace . We ask not your counsel or arms.. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you.

  34. Stephenitisok says

    Of course there will be a second referendum. Did one really imagine that the decision-making, opinion-forming, well educated, non-working classes with their feelings of moral superiority and belief in globalist ideology would accept a referendum result in which the ”wrong people’ won? Of course not. There will be a new referendum, and one after that, if need be, until the ‘right people’ win the vote.

    When the ‘right people’ win, there will be total silence. No more dawn to dusk television discussing hard or soft or concerned experts telling us how deeply divided the country is (it will still be deeply divided but now in the right way), no more column inches upon column inches in the daily broadsheets warning that life as we know it is about to change forever, no more articles in Quillette from writers laying down the case for a new referendum. It will be quite, dead quite, it will be as if the whole thing had never happened. That’s democracy for ya.

  35. TofeldianSage says

    Blah. Blah. Blah.

    What part of ‘leave’ did you not understand?

  36. Stephenitisok says

    and Blah to you too! I’m afraid you have grabbed the wrong end of the stick. I fully support the vote by the people in 2016 to leave the EU. What I was trying to show, obviously not succeeding in your case, was how the result is being undermined and will finally be ignored by the establishment, because in their minds the ‘wrong people’ won. When they achieve their goal of reversing the result the media will play their part by remaining silent.

  37. What a waste of words. Here’s a precis:

    I am a rich London barrister, I specialise in tax law to help ensure people like me stay rich and, anyway, criminal law would risk contact with the plebs. The EU’s bureaucracy suits me perfectly, makes me even richer and ensures power is kept in the hands of the sort of people I went to school and Oxbridge with, I have a profound sense of entitlement and believe others are simply here to serve me – especially in the case cheap domestic labour from the EU. I am right about everything, don’t believe in democracy and care for nothing except my own wallet and self esteem.

    • Stephenitisok says

      @Tom. Well we know now, if there ever had been any doubt, how you will be voting in the second referendum.

  38. The Running Head says

    After David Cameron sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind, the Brexit political crisis arises from a clear clash of constitutional principles, i.e. between direct and delegatory democracy – which (referendum or Parliament) is to have primacy? We are contesting what, now and in the future, is the fullest expression of the zeitgeist of political representation. What are to be the consequences for the delicately evolving constitutional process? Note that previous long drawn-out constitutional crises in Britain have also resulted from the contestation of sovereignty (monarchical or Parliamentarian, as in the Civil War and the 1688 Revolution), or hereditary and elected representation (Lords vs the Commons), or struggles against obvious unfairness where the vote was simply based on property and male gender.

    The Brexit process has been evidence, should we wish to see it, of a changing constellation of political forces refracted through the new means of seeing our own social reflection, specifically the information implosion (McLuhan) of digital media. The history of the development of the nation-state reminds us that changes in the material conditions of production and exchange (including information exchange) necessarily bring into existence new forms of social organization and polity.

    Clearly digital technologies have already altered the nature of political debate; they are on the cusp of changing our conception of political representation. More direct democracy will, I suggest, become increasingly feasible and desirable, even unavoidable: the relatively instant many-to-many responsiveness of digital communication/exchange will appear to belong to modernity; the lumbering machinery of the ‘democratic’ apparatus (intermittent voting) will seem anachronistic if not actively obstructive.

    In the present context we see, as ever, those with power looking to preserve the status quo. Jeremy Corbyn’s previously authentic scepticism and honest ennui about the European Union was true to Labour’s northern and working-class roots but it looks like it will be diverted towards the falsely-named ‘People’s Vote’ by short-termist middle-class Parliamentary Labour Party careerists simply looking to force a general election without thinking about the consequences of their actions for the next 50 years of the Labour Party’s democratic representativeness.

    The EU referendum was always about principle and gut feeling. Senior management in industry also take decisions based on ‘irrational’ factors, including ethos and core values. The Governor of the Bank of England or Parliament or the Treasury have no privileged access to what will happen in the future – they get things wrong too. Decisions on matters of principle, strategy and morality are more important than whether GDP is forecast (by whom?) to be x% lower for y years. I’ve never read that in 1939 anyone used this kind of argument to object to the declaration of war. So it is wrong (arrogant, patronizing) for Parliament to technicize judgement on Brexit based on the astonishingly deluded and self-serving pretext that it’s only a question of economics, which is beyond the competence of the general population. This kind of bad faith led, in the seventeenth century, to the kinds of struggles that created the current Parliament-dominated constitutional settlement. Who knows, in our own age, where it will lead?

    In the current clash of constitutional principles and the fragmentation of any possibility of consensus, my modest proposal is that there should be *two* new referendums. It may well be that people may want to think again (I voted remain but would now vote to leave – the manifest intellectual weakness and emotional dependence on the bureaucratic and unresponsive EU has been shocking.) So some kind of thinking again seems reasonable – nobody (particularly ‘expert’ politicians) knew what was involved. None of the current intractable issues were discussed at the time. The first new referendum should be whether to hold a second at all. I see this as the only way to maintain the long-term democratic credibility of Parliament by acceding to what must ultimately be acknowledged as a higher authority, namely the wishes of the people. Much that is more important than membership of the EU is at stake.

  39. Stephenitisok says

    Did we not have a referendum, less than a parliamentary term ago, in which 72% of the electorate voted, the majority choosing to leave the EU. Why bother with another referendum if representation does not respect the result of the previous vote?

  40. Interesting how you don’t note how the Remain campaign was ‘incorrect’ on many of it’s pre-vote scare stories (no recession happened, no emergency budget, unemployment still fail).

    Also interesting to note how the scare stories are still being published regarding a no deal Brexit (a fall in GDP to rival a vocal war).

    I will also point out Priti Patel’s dossier in the Remain campaign spending (https://brexitcentral.com/priti-patel-dossier/) that wasn’t even investigated.

    A second referendum held before the result of the first referendum has been upheld is, in my knowledge, unprecedented. I can’t imagine, sat, if Labour win the next election, they will accept another vote before they take power just, you know, to be sure.

    A second referendum will also do nothing to solve the problem. If leave win, will the result actually be honoured this time? If remain win, do the 17.4 million people just go away? Do we get a vote on further EU integration, or is not a risk the government will be prepared to take?

  41. Jim South says

    Now is the time to expose some of the potential ramifications of holding a second referendum.

    Some remain supporters are advocating for a second referendum in which voters would choose between Theresa May’s negotiated deal and remaining in the EU. The important thing to note about this referendum proposal is that voters would be denied the option of voting for a no-deal Brexit. As evidenced by that glaring omission, this referendum proposal is not designed to ascertain the will of the majority. Rather, it is designed to obfuscate and defeat it.

    The same can be said for the referendum proposal referred to in my earlier post on this article. That proposal has three voting options; namely, vote for Theresa May’s negotiated deal, or for a no-deal Brexit, or for remaining in the EU. There would be no preferential voting. Consequently, this proposal would split the leave vote into two separate camps, thus enabling the remain vote to prevail. Supporters of May’s deal would be denied the opportunity to vote for a no-deal Brexit in the event of May’s deal not receiving the most votes. Likewise, supporters of a no-deal Brexit would be denied the opportunity to vote for May’s deal in the event of a no-deal Brexit not receiving the most votes. This disenfranchising of voters would not apply to remain supporters, as their preferred option would receive the most votes, despite the likely absence of a majority supporting that option. Thus, the minority would prevail over the majority.

    Ironically, both these referendum proposals involve using direct democracy to defeat the will of the majority. Democracy would be thwarted under the guise of democracy.

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