There are strong arguments for and against holding a second UK referendum on Brexit (UK leaving membership of the EU). To be clear I was, and am, passionately against Brexit but, in this blog post, I’m not arguing one side or the other. I’m questoning process, and possible outcomes.
In my opinion the UK government made a fundamental mistake by not setting a majority threshold for the Ist (2016) referendum. To me it seems crazy that such a significant and long lasting change could be, theoretically, decided on a simple majority of 1. All of the angst, downstream of the vote, about “the will of the people” or “democracy” could have been avoided if a majority of, say, 60% one way or the other had been set. Instead we were left with a relatively small majority in favour of changing the status quo.
Now, after 2 years of negotiating the terms of our exit (the “deal”), we know more about what Brexit means. Some of the myths, and gaps in our understanding, that underpinned the referendum result have been clarified. The UK is still on track to leave the EU on March 29th but the government, and Parliament itself, is split from top to bottom and has failed to ratify the terms. There are calls for this impasse to be resolved by returning to a referendum. Would demographics come into play? There are two more years worth of young people who have reached voting age since the last referendum; there are two years worth of older voters who have fallen off the roll. It is widely believed that young people voted to Remain and older people voted to Leave.
I ask what the referendum question, or questions, could be? It can’t again be as simple as asking to vote to stay or leave but what, short of a vote to rescind the decision of the first referendum completely, would resolve the question of the border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and The Republic of Ireland (part of the EU)? Obviously there are other EU member countries with land (or sea) borders with non-EU countries, How do they manage? They have border controls. Whatever we decide it seems highly unlikely that an open border in the island of Ireland can survive a no-deal Brexit.
It’s a mess; I can’t see how this is going to resolve unless there is a general election which returns a big Labour majority, and therefore a government with some authority.