• Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

The only way forward is a second referendum

ByJames Small-Edwards

Oct 30, 2019

At the time of writing the UK’s impending withdrawal from the EU looks as though it is to be delayed for a third time with the Prime Minister having written to Brussels seeking a three month extension. Barring a shock change in heart, it is overwhelmingly likely that Donald Tusk and the EU will grant the extension. 

So where does this leave us? It is now nearly three and a half years since the referendum, we are onto our third Prime Minister since the vote to leave and he is finding things just as difficult as his predecessor. The question must be then, what do we do next? 

It is clear what the Prime Minister thinks the answer to this question is. He will continue to push for a general election in which he hopes to establish a solid parliamentary majority. This parliamentary majority would thus allow him to pass his deal through the commons and one can imagine he would hope to be heralded as the man who not only won the referendum, but carried out the result as Prime Minister.

It is worth noting that Jeremy Corbyn would also like an election. The only reason he whipped Labour MPs into voting down Johnson’s attempt to bring about an election was the fear that Britain could leave the EU without a deal midway through the election campaign. Corbyn hopes to win the general election, renegotiate a new deal with the EU and put said deal to the public in a confirmatory referendum with remain on the ballot paper.  

However, a general election must be understood as the wrong way to solve the current impasse, and this is for two main reasons. The first is a purely practical: there is a good chance that a general election leads to another hung parliament with no majority in the House of Commons. If this were to happen we could find ourselves in the same exact position we are in now, only having wasted time and money on a meaningless general election.

The second and more fundamental reason why a general election isn’t the correct thing to do is because it won’t focus enough on Brexit. This may seem a strange assertion due to the dominance of Brexit in our politics right now but we saw it happen with the election in 2017. Ultimately, during a general election the majority of people haven’t — and will not — vote solely according to their Brexit stance.

Issues like the climate crisis, NHS funding, tax levels and crime will come to the fore and ultimately decide where people vote. And rightly so — general elections are for tackling these issues. They are not, however, an adequate medium for deciding something as fundamental and irrevocable as the manner in which we leave the EU or whether we leave at all.

The only way to properly solve the issue of Brexit is to go back to the people in a second referendum: Johnson’s deal versus Remain. This would give people the chance to weigh up Brexit in a different manner to the 2016 referendum. We now know what Brexit looks like and it can be much better evaluated against continued membership of the EU.

Ultimately Brexit is too important to be decided in a general election where it will be wrapped up with all the other issues facing the country. That method that got us into this mess — a referendum — is the only way we can get out of it.


Image: ‘AngryYoungMan’ via Flickr

By James Small-Edwards


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