Recent public calls for a so called ‘second referendum’ are on the surface heavily opposed by those who favour either a No Deal (Jacob Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson) or Theresa Mays Deal (Michael Gove) who all seem to be calling for people to refuse to participate in a second referendum because they argue it will lack democratic credibility. Clearly if either of their preferred cases are achievable through Parliament, there will be a strong sense of where we are going and the need or prospect of a 2019 referendum will only retain support outside of Parliament (and by those MPs who take the view that both of these scenarios offer an acute threat to our nation). The fact is that one (or probably both) of these groups will fail to gain sufficient support to enable their proposals to be made a reality. Of course this is much more certain in the case of T’s Deal as it represents a clear set of proposals which enables most observers to find a weakness or threat in each proposal. However even though a No Deal departure will clearly depend on a failure of T’s Deal it raises so many other barriers that it seems unlikely it could be achieved without a huge amount of support from across the nation, particularly as it is a long way from the proposals laid out by the Vote Leave Campaign back in mid 2016.
There is a strong argument for avoiding another referendum as many people feel they have already made a decision and the last thing they want is to do is have to revisit the decision they took 31 months ago or risk having that decision reversed. It is clear that whatever the 2019 referendum looks like, that it cannot be seen as a reversal of the 2016 referendum. However our Government and their opposition need to begin by accepting that the bill that 544 of them voted for on 9 June 2015 and was opposed by only 53 MPs was lacking in competence. Once it had been approved by the House of Lords on 14th December 2015 it then took until 1 February 2016 before it came into full legal force, yet that allowed less than four months for any communication to take place with nearly 50m voters. What is bizarre is that the nation as a whole had 16 weeks to resolve the issue of whether we should stay or leave the EU, based on nonsense which was provided by professional politicians who knew better, yet those same people have had 122 weeks to come up with our route away from the EU and they have still not clarified where the first step is that is supposed to be taken in less than 12 weeks.
It is clear that remaining in the EU with its current arrangements would not be acceptable in the light of the journey we have been on as a nation which includes the vote in 2016. Equally to leave will require a great deal more than a simple set of ideas which between them fail to provide a sense of where we are actually headed. Any choice we might now make to remain in the EU will depend on us setting out a set of major changes to its culture and arrangements, and any choice we make to leave will demand us determining where our departure will actually take us as a nation.