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Second Brexit Referendum Looks More Likely Than Ever

Do you support Brexit?

by Axios | Updated on 1.16.19

Prime Minister Theresa May’s historic defeat in the House of Commons yesterday has emboldened those in Westminster and around the country who argue a second referendum is needed to decide whether the U.K. goes ahead with Brexit or reverses course.

The big picture: A second referendum now looks at least as likely as the other scenarios: a tweaked version of May’s deal, a softer Brexit, a “no deal” exit or a general election.

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  • The Economist Intelligence Unit put the likelihood of a second referendum at 30% in a new report, and that was before the Brexit deal May struck with the European Union was defeated by the largest margin in modern British political history.

The backstory: “Leave” beat “Remain” by a 52-48 margin in June, 2016. The major parties all said they’d respect the results and move ahead with Brexit. However, they never agreed on what form Brexit would take.

  • May argues that reversing course now would betray the will of the people and erode trust in politics for a generation. But some, including European Council President Donald Tusk, argue a second referendum is the only remaining course of action that makes any sense.
  • Tusk tweeted: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”

The catch: Just about every aspect of Brexit is far more complicated than it seems, and that’s also true of a second referendum.

The question

Parliament would have to approve the idea, and would also have to sign off on the question posed to voters. That’s particularly tricky here, because there are three broad options: leave with May’s deal, leave with no deal (the preferred choice for hardline Brexiteers), or remain in the EU.

  • Simply offering those three choices “would split the Leave vote into two camps whilst handing Remain a huge advantage,” the Telegraph’s Harry Yorke points out.
  • Instead, voters would likely have to be asked to rank their first and second choices, or whether they’d prefer no deal or May’s deal in the event that Leave beats out Remain.

The timing

Brexit Day, March 29, is fast approaching. In order to hold a second referendum, the U.K. would have to extend or revoke the “Article 50” provision that put Brexit into motion.

  • “A fair estimate is that the whole process would take a minimum of 21 weeks, but this would be much shorter than other recent referendums,” the Institute for Government notes.

The controversy

The objections to a second referendum from pro-Brexit Members of Parliament and activists are fierce. They claim the elites are out to undermine democracy because they didn’t like the people’s decision.

  • May is also firmly against it. She has said the people of the U.K. gave their leaders a “solemn responsibility to deliver Brexit,” and not doing so isn’t an option.
  • Remain now leads Leave by a 46 to 39 margin (or 54-46 once undecideds are removed) according to a YouGov poll released earlier this month.
  • But one scenario that’s been raised is the possibility that Remain defeats Leave this time around, but by a margin that’s similar to or smaller than Leave’s victory in 2016. What then?

The bottom line: There have only been three nationwide referendums in U.K. political history. Another referendum on Brexit has never been the likeliest course. But it has also never looked as likely as it does now.

-Dave Lawler

Axios

Written by Axios

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(15)
  • Dave
    Voted Support
    01/16/2019
    ···

    I don’t live in the UK, so Brext in my view was a bad idea. The reason is, united you stand, divided you fall. Exiting in the world, plays in to Russia and other dictators hands. A United front is better than a divided front. United States is a prime example, individual, some states would served others would go under in many ways. With the world became more international the region need to band together to support their needs. It is a world, region, country and local community more so now, than ever before. May be they should read the pledge of allegiance, and the definition by Red Skeleton 1969 to understand what United is. E Pluribus Unum” or “E Pluribus Pluribus”. "From many, one."

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  • Andy1
    Voted Oppose
    01/16/2019
    ···

    Britain can do what it wants, but seems pretty obvious now that the brexiteers sold the British people a bill of goods. It’s one thing to like the idea of brexit, but a completely different thing to like the actual details of how it will work in the real world.

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  • Christopher
    Voted Oppose
    01/16/2019
    ···

    It was an ill conceived decision that did not consider the many implications of the European Union. We should not allow such shortsighted ideology to rule the day, on either American or European shores; let’s admit fault and learn not to repeat this mistake.

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  • Karan
    Voted Support
    01/16/2019
    ···

    The people voted to leave. They made that choice. A million more people voted to leave than stay. I’m sorry but voting has consequences. Britain voted to leave.

    Like (2)
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  • Mark
    Voted Oppose
    01/17/2019
    ···

    Another Russian born strategy to fragment the allies of the West. It has to be stopped.

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  • Brad
    Voted Support
    01/17/2019
    ···

    The people of Great Britain voted. The EU doesn't want them to leave and they're doing everything they can to make it as difficult as possible for them! Sound familiar? It's no different than the insanity in the US. Republicans vs Democrats. One side makes it as difficult as possible for the other. I just wish we could have a "no confidence" vote for our legislators!!!

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  • Terry
    Voted Support
    01/16/2019
    ···

    The British are being fleeced by the EU. It’s there money.

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  • Curtis
    Voted Support
    01/17/2019
    ···

    Pro leave citizens beat pro stay citizens by about a million votes. If the government reversed its decision that wouldn’t be democratic and the public wouldn’t trust the government on something that was already agreed upon.

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  • Bernie
    Voted Support
    01/16/2019
    ···

    Referendum passed. Get out.

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  • ConflyktedPolitics
    Voted Oppose
    01/17/2019
    ···

    It's not my country, so take this with a grain of salt... but you made a decision on essentially a 50/50 tie to leave the EU... and your politicians have proven inept in doing so time and time again. Quit trying for now, and use the next decade to 1) Plan for a future, clean Brexit if ever needed, and 2) Building your economy back up so you can enter 2030 swinging.

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