Second EU referendum and democracy

peoples voteThere are those who say a second EU referendum would destroy faith in democracy. Their argument seems disingenuous. I can understand people taking this line if it is in their interest to. But for every person who sees a second referendum as an affront to democracy there could well be at least one other who sees it as an assertion of democracy.

The 2016 referendum was advisory but it was taken as binding. For my money that was an affront to democracy if anything was. But it could be ameliorated by a second, confirmatory, referendum. If a Leave vote is confirmed, so be it.

If people who in June 2016 voted to leave the EU still think it is the right thing to do then they should be confident of convincing a sufficient majority of voters that it is still the right thing to do – over 2 years after a close result in an advisory referendum which pitted a 100% clear Remain option against a necessarily indeterminate Leave option. The decision would be confirmed, we would leave the EU, and that would be an end to it.

But I’ve not heard anyone on the Leave side so much as countenance the idea of a second confirmatory referendum. It is therefore hard not to draw the conclusion that the reason is because they fear the result would be a decision to Remain. But if that did happen, it would mean that if we had left without the chance of a second referendum, we would be going against what the majority wanted. Which would surely be another huge affront to democracy? If however the result of a second referendum was a decision to Leave, then that would prove that the decision to Leave was in line with what the majority now want.

It seems to me therefore that Leave supporters eager to display their democratic credentials should actually campaign strongly for a second referendum. Because either they would get proof that the now practically worked out Leave option agreed with the EU (and which may be about to be implemented) has majority support at the time of implementation; or they are stopped from mistakenly enacting what a majority of voters believe is a very bad thing for the country and for themselves. In terms of democracy (rather in terms of the desires and aspirations of individual voters regardless of their Leave or Remain preferences) that would seem a win-win.

© Chris Lawrence 2019.


3 thoughts on “Second EU referendum and democracy

  1. theotheri

    I’m inclined to agree with you, though I’m not so sure about the motives of some of the Remainers, either. I suspect Corbyn’s motivation is to support whatever option he thinks is most apt to lead to another parliamentary election and get him elected as prime minister.


    1. Chris Lawrence Post author

      Thanks Terry.

      It seems clear to me that Corbyn himself is a Leaver. He always was and he’s not exactly famous for changing his mind. But I agree that in the current parliamentary ‘process’ he’s most likely to support whatever option is most likely to bring down the government. The problem then is that his tactic of taking the Labour Remain vote for granted to protect Labour-held seats in Leave-voting areas seems to be running out of rope.

      It’ll be no surprise to you that as a 100% hardened Remainer myself I do not share your qualms about the motives of other Remainers. People who supported Remain in 2016 seem now to fall largely into 2 camps: either they accept the 2016 result or they want to stop Brexit if at all possible. I’m firmly in the second camp as for many reasons I see no democratic legitimacy in the 2016 result.

      Perhaps most importantly of all I think it was criminally negligent to hold the 2016 referendum in the first place without a fully worked out solution to the impact of a Leave vote on the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement was after all what eventually stitched up one of the remaining open wounds left by the retreating British Empire. Britain caused the problem in the first place, in its historic treatment of Ireland. Ireland and the EU helped Britain solve its problem. In 2016 Britain decided in a colossal act of self-harm to leave the EU. But it now seems to be left to Ireland and the EU to remind Britain of its responsibilities in respect of the GFA, and because Ireland and the EU insist that the GFA must not be eroded it is they who are blamed for intransigence. What seems particularly outrageous is how British TV/Radio interviewers are often complicit in this. I think Britain’s behaviour has been and continues to be utterly shameful in its arrogant disregard for the impact of its own idiocy on something as important as the GFA. I shudder to think how long it will take to restore good relations with our neighbours.

      I do not see either Ireland or the EU as angelic. But in respect of the GFA and the backstop their position seems completely understandable and surprisingly indulgent. Rant over!


      1. theotheri

        As I hope you know already, we are substantially in agreement. My husband and I were both Remainers, despite our concern about the significant democratic deficit of the EU. But are now appalled by May’s lack of any negotiating skills. She seems to think she has all the answers, is incapable of listening to any alternative views, and only now has been forced to accept that she can’t ram all her right answers down the throats of MP’s or the electorate in general.

        Okay, that’s my rant over too. But do let me add that I am fully aware that I can hardly put my hand up for the negotiating skills of those at the top of the ladder across the pond.

        Liked by 1 person


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