The same people get to choose
London4Europe Committee member and former senior civil servant Michael Romberg writes.
There are three arguments we have to win, both to obtain the referendum on the terms with the option to Remain (People’s Vote) and to win it. EU membership is better than Brexit; we can heal the country if we Remain; it is fair to hold a referendum on the terms.
Why do people say a referendum would be a betrayal?
Some people want Brexit to go ahead. But even many Remainers believe that we have to follow the result of 2016, though the number of “Re-Leavers” has fallen substantially over the two years.
Some do not argue that they themselves necessarily would see it as a betrayal but rather point to the risk of division or violence or the rise of extremist groups if there was a further referendum.
For some it reflects their idea of the EU. An out of touch organisation that insists that people who get the answer wrong should be made to vote again until they get it right. Not a sound argument, since it is member states that have referenda not the EU; and where a similar topic has been voted on twice the substance has been changed in the light of the earlier rejection so the votes are different.
But some believe it would be a betrayal, such as the Prime Minister speaking in the House of Commons on 17 December 2018:
Finally let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.
Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.
Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.
And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.
You can run through a neutral statement of the arguments for and against here:
[Arguments against a referendum.] & our arguments for
[The 2016 referendum was billed as one-shot.] True. But Leave had no plan. You cannot implement an idea.
[People were told their decision would be implemented.] So it has been. The Government has been trying for 30 months to work out a Brexit plan that delivers some of what was promised without incurring excessive cost.
[It would destroy trust in politics to run another referendum.] The referendum gave a mandate to produce a plan. Now the plan has been produced the same people should be asked to approve or reject it.
[There would be an increase in extremist politics as people felt they had not been listened to.] The Government has spent the past 30 months doing nothing other than trying to make the referendum result work.
[You only want a referendum because you lost in 2016. You cannot keep on re-running the referendum until you get the result you want.] The 2019 referendum would ask a different question from 2016: Brexit the plan, not Brexit the idea.
[A narrow win would not settle the question.] 2016 did not settle the question. The losing side will still be able to argue for their case.
[If Leave lose in 2019 they will call for “best of three”.] 2016 and 2019 would ask different questions. If the losing side want another referendum they need to work out a different question for that.
[People knew what they were voting for. It was made clear that Brexit meant leaving the single market.] Leave had no plan. HM Treasury’s economic modelling included EEA membership as an option. Most Leave voters believed we would stay in the Single Market.
[Since the Political Declaration is so vague people know no more about what they are voting on than they did in 2016.] People have had it made quite clear that you cannot have your cake and eat it.
[The resentment at being made to vote again would make the referendum even more divisive than 2016.] Brexit based on the vague promises of Vote Leave would not be divisive? Having a decision based on plans, facts, realities would have the chance to be healing whichever way the vote goes.
[Unless the referendum has at least three choices it will disenfranchise much of the electorate.] There are ways of managing that: stage 1 vote chooses best Brexit; stage 2 chooses best Brexit or remain. Economists call it backward induction.
The core of our argument is that in 2016 Leave had no plan. No-one takes a project from idea to implementation without a review of the project plan. Asking the same people as approved the idea in 2016 to approve the plan is fair and honourable. The people cannot betray themselves.
Here is a link to a blog by Chris Grey about how poisonous politics becomes when everything is a "betrayal".
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