Faint hopes only for a second Brexit referendum

Jeremy Corbyn’s challenger Owen Smith (once the smooth and effective special adviser to  Secretary of State Paul Murphy) has offered a second referendum or a general election to ratify any Brexit deal.  What, you hadn’t noticed? His offer has so far been buried in the controversy over the leadership challenge. Let’s see how it plays in the leadership campaign over the summer. Only Dominic Grieve the former Attorney General has surfaced for a second referendum among leading  Conservatives.

Adds later

On the idea of a second referendum, a briefing  paper for the Labour front bench a copy of which was passed to the Guardian, says that many Labour activists have appealed for a rerun of the referendum, in part because of “the disinformation of the leave campaign and the dysfunction of the government”.

It argues that before exit takes place “there should be the opportunity for some further injection of democracy into this process, so that either the public or their parliamentary representatives are able to vote on the reality of a post-Brexit Britain”.

The papers’ relevance however is as limited as the prospects of another Labour government.

The main Brexit negotiations on withdrawal from the EU must presumably be complete before the next scheduled general election in 2020 at the latest.  Apart from the small matter of Theresa May’s cardinal “Brexit means Brexit” declaration, the issue of a second referendum would be much affected by issues  outside UK control.  .

Next year there are German French and Italian elections, with strong right wing and some left  movements breathing down the necks of  the leaders in these and other states. At a wide stretch the most favourable scenario is that as a result, the main EU states are forced to recast the EU project so fundamentally that the reasons for UK withdrawal no longer apply. This scenario has been set out by the leading constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor. This would take a day or three.

The other scenario that the Brexiteer purists, David Davis and Liam Fox who are leading the negotiations and the search for bilateral trade deals fail to deliver, the economy tanks and May does a spectacular U-turn for the election and says to the EU in terms that it was all a terrible mistake. Whether the EU would want to take  the UK  back by then is moot.

Davis’s breezy assumptions about fixing new trade deals are questioned by a Financial Times briefing (£) about acquiring negotiating status under World Trade Organisation rules

.. the UK would have to detach itself from the EU and regularise its position within the WTO before it could sign its own trade agreements, including with the EU. As Roberto Azevêdo, the WTO’s director-general, said recently, there is no precedent for a WTO member extricating itself from an economic union while inside the organisation. The process would not be easy and would likely take years before the UK’s WTO position was settled, not least because no other member states would have to agree.

The second referendum scenario is just about faintly plausible, but don’t hold your breath.

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  • Skibo

    Terence as Kevin has pointed out earlier, until there is PR or some element of it, the smaller parties will always have trouble breaking in past the big two. Even if they do, they will only be a small fish in a coalition government and as we have seen before they rarely hold two sessions of elections at a reasonable level.

  • Skibo

    That I do not understand. Labour in the North East getting pissed off with Blairite policies yes. Getting pissed off with Corbynite policies no I don’t think so.

  • Skibo

    As Kevin said, with FPTP you have to achieve a certain level of support to achieve parity between votes and seats. Either that of your vote has to be localised. The UKIP vote is spread over the whole country.

  • Reader

    Katyusha – so you are predicting no substantial change in behaviour? Me too.

  • Kevin Breslin

    They got an AV ref which could’ve gradually let more pro-STV parties in.

  • Katyusha

    I can’t see any change in behaviour. Both “the law” and “the border” can seem very abstract concepts in border areas; the cash in your palm is real.

    The only thing I am afraid of is that if there is any plan to institute permanent border checkpoints, or even temporary manned ones, that some dissident group will attack them. For ordinary people, life goes on, no matter what any government may have to say about it.

  • jporter

    It seems incredible, given the endless analysis of the referendum result, that so many still don’t get it.
    Owen Smith’s proclamation perfectly illustrates why he, those behind the PLP coup and their supporters in the commentariat are so hilariously, spectacularly out of touch and why, despite painting themselves as the hard-nosed political realists, they don’t understand that getting rid of Corbyn actually makes Labour even more unelectable.
    They still believe, full of arrogance and condescension, that the electorate in Labour’s heartlands just weren’t told enough what is good for them, that, like unruly children, they just needed an adult to step in and tell them the difference between right and wrong.
    The idea of a second referendum is, in fact, the absolute epitome of the elitist, arrogant attitude of the political class and media commentators that drove many people to vote leave in the first place.
    This was quite clear from almost the start of the referendum night coverage and became clearer when voters were asked why they voted leave, yet is ignored in most post-referendum analysis and hand wringing. Why? Because many still honestly believe that it was a result of thick plebs being allowed to vote without listening properly to their betters.
    Labour running under a second referendum banner will be utterly, utterly, slaughtered.
    A lot of people really do need to pull their heads out of their arses on this one.

  • Hugh Davison

    I missed that demonstration, Sir. Can you kindly show me again, please? It doesn’t have to be in great detail. Some detail will do fine.

  • Hugh Davison

    I’m hoping you will do the same for me in my request above. Otherwise someone might think you were BSing.

  • Hugh Davison

    I take it you’re not on the fence on this one?

  • Hugh Davison

    Ah so! Rants-a-lot. Yes, I get it now.

  • Hugh Davison

    Actually, they are probably 65 or older. Brits of working age are found in many EU countries including Germany and France. But you knew that anyway.

  • Hugh Davison

    You said above that you were digging deeper. Care to share what you found?

  • Hugh Davison

    So you could make life hard for unskilled labour in NI and other parts of the UK just to make the country less appealing to immigrants?