We need a second referendum. This is not radical, but rather logical. Parliament is no longer a beacon of democracy, but rather a pinnacle of an impasse. Indeed, it simply cannot agree on the best course for the British public. In short, the decision to determine the future of this country must be outsourced back to the people, who, with accurate analyses, be best placed to express their democratic consent.
Theresa May’s speech today has reaffirmed one important factor: The Government is contemptuous of the people, of our Constitution and our economy. We are not building a Britain fit for the future, but one that quite reasonably should be consigned to the dustbin of our history.
The Referendum was voted for with no indication of the actual facts! Regardless of whether you voted ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’, the months since the vote has demonstrated what an incomprehensible and cost-prohibitive challenge Brexit is to deliver (in costing the UK around £500 million a week – according to reports – we will lose more than we were allegedly told we would save. Ironically, it would seem under the current trajectory we won’t be able to cover the cost of the red bus, let alone the £350 million towards the NHS printed on the side!) This reaffirms, then, why the simple, binary question put to the electorate in the 2016 Referendum was never going to be the final word on this.
Our membership of the EU was never a simple ‘yes’/’no’ choice- this has been shown in the endless discussions surrounding membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union. People may say ‘we had a referendum’- yes we did, but one that eroded the constitutional significance of the issue of EU membership by overlooking our various treaty obligations when putting the question in an absurdly simplistic question.
What, in reality, should have appeared on the ballot in 2016 was a series of questions: do you want to leave the EU as a whole? Would you like to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union? This was not what happened and is why we need a fresh vote. This is essential because we only began to address the questions above after June 2016. Not only did we not know the answers to these questions, but vastly inaccurate information hijacked the referendum.
But of course, this is only the tip of the political iceberg. If anything, a second referendum will address blatant constitutional breaches which, if the government is able to get away with, will demonstrate that any government can subvert the very political edifice on which our country relies. The Government’s standard response is ‘The British people have voted to leave the EU and the government respect that decision. Yet, the government themselves do not know the outcome of that decision, so how can they possible respect it? To quote Theresa May: “We don’t know what the outcome will be”. Crucially, this is because the referendum was advisory, not conclusive. Hence, legally, the vote breaches Article 50 (1), as in order for Article 50 to be triggered a binding vote must be issued. Politicians need to remember, this was not achieved simply by holding a vote.
The June 2016 referendum started a meaningful national debate about EU membership for the first time in at least a generation. This debate should have happened many years ago, but it is happening now. And only once this debate is over, once we have heard everything we need to hear about what EU membership means, should the electorate then decide whether they support it or not.