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It's not a re-run of 2016
27 Mar, 2019

Leavers think so; but the question is different

London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg looks at the opinion polls and sets out the arguments to make to those who think that a referendum on the terms would just be asking the same question again until Leave voters get it right.


What the public think

YouGov's 14-15 March 2019 survey showed that most of those expressing a view (49:22) would see a Deal/Remain referendum as different from 2016, though Leavers think it would be a re-run (38:27). Much the same applies for a No-Deal/Remain referendum: 48:24 and 41:24. 

That is consistent with the inaccurate Leave claim: “The EU always runs referenda again until people get the answer right”. We can rebut that:

  • the EU does not run referenda at all, it is member states;
  • negotiations between the member state and the EU mean that the proposal in a further referendum has been different from that in the first.


2019 would not be a re-run of 2016

2016 was a vote on an idea “to Leave”; 2019 would be a vote on a plan “to Leave in this one way”. So we are not asking anyone to change their mind but to answer a different question.

 “Let’s go on holiday together” is different from “Let’s go walking in the Welsh mountains in the first week of April and stay in these B&Bs”. The first is an invitation to explore options; the second is a proposal to commit oneself to a plan.


Leave had no plan

Who can forget Gove musing that we might go with the Albanian model? Donald Tusk identified a "special place in hell" for "those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely".

We can point to specific assertions made by Leave campaigners both before the referendum vote and afterwards as they ostensibly implemented the clear decision that had been made. You will have your own choices, but here is a selection:

  • Boris Johnson’s assertion that there would not need to be trade-offs: "My policy on cake is pro eating it and pro having it".
  • Michael Gove misrepresented the balance of power when he told us that “the day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.”
  • Liam Fox told us that "the free trade agreement that we have to do with the EU should be one of the easiest in human history".


Brexit means Brexit means nothing

Yet some Leavers continue to assert that the 2016 decision was clear and that no confirmation or further decision is needed. That can be refuted by looking at what happened since: how can the 2016 mandate have been clear if it has taken the Government almost three years to get this far and Leavers are unable to decide on what constitutes Brexit?


Voters could not know what they would get

We should make clear in response that we do not doubt that every Leave voter knew what they wanted from Leave. What they could not know was what they were going to get – because Leave had no plan.

The specific assertion sometimes made that Leave voters knew that leaving meant leaving the single market is disproved by the pre-referendum opinion polls that asked that question.



To ensure that they see the referendum as legitimate, we have to persuade voters that 2019 asks a different question from 2016. It would be vote on a plan, not a vote on an idea.





More arguments in our blogs: The case for the referendum on the terms; It’s not a betrayal; A referendum on the terms is the honourable course; Why a referendum is the right answer; Respect the result. 

Practicalities of a referendum is an indexed list of blogs published by UCL Constitution Unit, Institute for Government and London4Europe covering all aspects of the referendum.


The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Vice-chair Nick Hopkinson. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.