It is undeniable that Brexit was a divisive issue, such a decision about the direction in which a country should go will always attract a large degree of controversy. The UK saw itself immersed in an extremely emotionally charged argument. So the question must be asked, could we do this again?
The essence of democracy is that voters change their minds. Of course this is the case, if they did not we would never change governments and there would be no need for the Brexit referendum in the first place, as 1975 would have completely cleared that issue.
As a result, it is understandable to hear people talk about a second referendum. They point to economic and trade statistics, shifting opinions and lack of clarity in order to push for a second vote.
But the real issue is that the British public will not stomach a second referendum, however much the Tony Blair’s and Nick Clegg’s of the world would like to think so.
To begin with there is the issue around timing. If the Government were to arrange a deal to be agreed upon by October, Parliament would then have to call a second referendum on its terms. We would then have to agree on the question to be asked, establish a campaign and hold a vote. Can this happen before March 2019? Highly unlikely. Whilst it may be possible to persuade the EU to postpone Brexit, the legality is questionable and the EU has now reached the point where it would like the process to begin to conclude.
This is also highly unlikely because those calling for the second referendum can offer no clarity about what it will look like. There is just as much clarity on what such a question would look like as there is with leaving the European Union. Those asking for a second referendum cannot agree what would happen if the British people reject the deal. Do we therefore remain in the EU and completely ignore the initial vote- which would leave brexiteers who voted to leave fuming. Or do we leave without any agreement- in which case the remainers would seethe with the exact same anger they had in June 2016. Those calling for a second referendum must be able to answer this before they plunge the country back down the divisive hole we have been trying to emerge from.
The evidence suggests that the UK electorate remains split down the middle. Suppose there were a 51 to 49 per cent vote against the deal. Would this really decide anything? It would be more likely to make the strife hotter.
Finally no major British party has a settled will against Brexit. The reasons Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is against the EU — that it is a capitalist plot — are the opposite of those on the Tory right — that it is a socialist one. But his opposition is real, all the same. Yet the inner mechanisms of the Labour Party believe in the fundamentals of the European Union.
The country is still divided on this issue and there is no need for us to go back through the process of another referendum. We would do better to accept the result of the first referendum, take full advantage of the opportunities it brings and look beyond Brexit.