The nation seems to be fed up of voting, whether it be in general elections or referendums, but could we be facing yet another vote on Brexit?
Another EU Referendum?
The only thing we’ve really been sure of during the Brexit process so far is that we’re not really sure about anything. Eighteen months down the line, most people still don’t know any more about how leaving the European Union is going to affect their lives – and neither does the government. Nonetheless, there are many who believe that if we held another EU referendum there would be a different outcome this time round. We might expect this attitude, perhaps wishful thinking, from Remain supporters, but the person who surprisingly called for a second vote this week was in fact Nigel Farage.
So why is former UKIP leader and biggest supporter of Brexit ready to give his opposition another chance? Is he just bored now that his days of campaigning are over? I wouldn’t rule it out. However, the reason Farage gave for this sudden change of heart is that he wants to silence the “moaning” Remainers. He says that the Brexit discussions are being hindered by the constant debate and that he believes a second vote would see a bigger majority in favour of Brexit. It seems he has not learnt from last year’s general election. That said, he makes a valid point: with a Leave:Remain ratio of 52:48, many believe it is wrong to ignore 48% of voters. In fact, a petition was made with a view to implementing a rule that if the remain or leave vote was less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum, and was signed by 4,150,262 people. Surely it would make it easier for the government to justify Brexit if people once again voted in favour of it?
On the other hand, passionate Remainers such as Nick Clegg and Tony Blair see it as an opportunity to reverse the decision. They believe that people were misinformed during the Brexit campaign and that now they have a (debatably) clearer idea of what leaving the EU entails they have a democratic right to change their minds. The Liberal Democrats are the only party who officially support a second referendum, and they feel people should know what the deal is before they vote, so that this time they can make an informed choice. This view is shared with several MPs, too, as the majority of the House of Commons (73% of MPs) opposed Brexit in the referendum, and many believe that the British public made a mistake.
But is a second Brexit vote realistic? It is difficult to argue that the Brexit process has been a smooth ride so far. Theresa May’s failure to win a majority at the last election has not only weakened her party’s mandate, but has also forced her to call on the controversial Irish party DUP. What does this tell us about what our deal with the EU is going to look like? Possibly not very much, but still more than what David Davis can currently tell us about the impact of Brexit. The Brexit Secretary was widely criticised by MPs who accused him of a “total dereliction of duty” as he said that “no systematic impact assessment” had been undertaken by the Government. With all these mistakes being made by the government, you might think they would be reassessing the situation. Conversely, May has insisted a second referendum would be a betrayal of voters and would also lead to a bad deal in exit talks, and Jeremy Corbyn has also opposed the idea. Whilst it is true that May went ahead with a general election having ruled it out earlier in 2017, it seems like the decision of both major party leaders is final.
Personally, despite being a Remainer myself, I do not believe we should have a second referendum. Britain’s exit from the European Union means that one of the bloc’s biggest economies will stop making contributions to its budget. Why would EU negotiators be willing to give us a favourable deal, knowing that if it was a poor deal we would vote against it and remain in the EU? Moreover, is the slim chance of a different result really enough to justify reigniting the tensions and divisions within our society which we saw so much following 2016’s referendum? I don’t believe it is. However, should the government give the British public a second chance to decide their future, one might hope that young people, the generation who will be most affected, will turn out in greater numbers this time. The 2016 EU referendum saw a turnout of 53% of 18-24-year-olds. Does this figure really depict a group of young people who want a say in their future?
By Lucy Higginbotham