Would a second referendum be undemocratic?

A common jibe of leavers used to be “So Remainers just want to re-run the referendum until they get the result that suits them? How many referendums do you want? The best of 3, the best of 5?”

Now they have gone a bit quiet on that one, since Theresa May has used exactly that tactic in a vain attempt to force Parliament to swallow her deal. Bringing it back again and again until, in a vivid metaphor from The Independent, “it began to resemble the indestructible cyborg from the film The Terminator…crushed by a machine press, shot and blown apart, but just when you think it’s dead, its mangled wires spark, its broken engine whirs and that dreaded red glint of life illuminates its remaining eye, as it begins to crawl up the Commons floor again.”

This time it does look as though it is truly dead, though one can never be quite sure. The point is that compared to May’s relentless hammering of her unloved deal, the People’s Vote march was positively good natured and humorous, reflecting the values we stand for.

Unable to criticise supporters of a new referendum for being politely persistent, the Brexiters resort to claiming that such a vote would be “undemocratic”. At first sight it is difficult to see how any vote could be undemocratic, except perhaps one characterised by cheating and the breaking of electoral law, as happened in 2016. Brexiters conveniently ignore that fact, asserting that the devious aim of Remainers is not to uphold democracy but to overturn the will of the people. They are behind the times of course, for the will of the people reversed itself some time ago.

The prime aim of a second vote is not to overturn anything but to provide informed consent. When you are wheeled into theatre for a major operation, the surgeon checks with you that you understand the risks versus the benefits and still want to go ahead. He doesn’t say “you decided on amputation three years ago and I’m holding you to that”. Settled intent over a period of time is normally a requirement for any major decision.

That may sound like common sense yet there is no end to the nonsense talked, even in exalted circles. Chris Bickerton, who teaches politics at Cambridge University, says “A second referendum would be a blow to the heart of our parliamentary
democracy. It would introduce the principle – elitist to the core – that the legitimacy of a political decision rests upon a judgment about the knowledge that informed it”. Well of course the legitimacy of a decision is dependent on the knowledge that informs it, Mr Bickerton. If demolition workers about to blow up a building are informed that an old lady is still inside, is it still legitimate to blow it up?

Personally, the only paradigm I can see offering even the vaguest rationale for holding the country to that dodgy decision of almost three years ago would be the judicial model. That is, that the country must take responsibility for its actions on 23rd June 2016. If it means hardship, tough luck, you voted leave so leave you shall, you made your bed so you must lie on it. This would certainly be in keeping with the punitive element inherent in right wing politics: the war on drugs, austerity, and so on.

On this model the desire of progressives to escape the tragedy of Brexit would be comparable to the person in the dock pleading mitigation. “Your honour, I know I knocked over the cyclist, but the sun was in my eyes”. Equivalent to the country saying “We believed some lies on the side of a bus, so can’t you let us off?” Not likely, and the fine in the case of Brexit will be several billion.

Needless to say I don’t believe the country deserves to be punished for the Brexit debacle. We’ll leave that kind of thinking to the Tories.

* John King is a retired doctor and Remain campaigner.

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  • Michael Cole 8th Apr '19 - 2:56pm

    Excellent article.

    It is frightening to learn that Chris Bickerton teaches politics anywhere – let alone Cambridge University.

    If Brexiters are so sure of the ‘will of the people’ why are they so afraid to put it to the test ?

  • Of course it’s democratic, but it will not end anything. There is absolutely no reason for either side accept a new vote as final anymore than they did the 2016 referendum. This will just keep rolling on for years and decades, cropping up over and over again at every election.

  • Arnold Kiel 8th Apr '19 - 4:57pm


    I don’t think the 2016 hat-trick can ever be repeated: all the lies were exposed; there aren’t enough new ones. The country will remember for at least a generation that Brexit was a catastrophic near-miss never to be repeated.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Apr '19 - 5:04pm

    @ Michael Cole,

    Why is it frightening that Chris Bickerton teaches politics anywhere, let alone Cambridge? If a student enters higher education with a closed mind, one has to ask whether such an individual would benefit from a university education.

    Have you checked his CV and research interests?

    Having read Dr King’s article, I am now in the process of skim reading: ‘A Brexit proposal by Christopher Bickerton and Richard Tuck. (17.08. 2018). When I have time I will read it with more care. So far, I find it both illuminating and a refreshing perspective on Brexit.

  • A new referendum has positives and negatives, more of the former, I would say, as politicians don’t seem able to sort it out and it keeps “remain” in play, my preference.

    However, the risk is a low turnout because people who genuinely believe we should leave the EU might think, “why bother”, we have been ignored. Also, one of the reasons people voted to Leave was not so much a conviction about the merits (imagined or real) of leaving the EU but a shout that they were being ignored by London-centric politicians anyway and had been for some time, so another vote will just reinforce that. A low turnout will raise questions of legitimacy, so more petitions etc

    All my conversations with friends and family lead me to believe that people have lost faith in politicians and democracy, which is extremely worrying, whether we leave the EU or not

    Lastly, it is not helpful to keep banging on about the lies that the “Leave” campaign told. It is true they did, but so did “Remain”. If we want “Remain” to prevail, it needs to be a positive campaign this time, highlighting the positives of staying, not the negatives of leaving

  • Arnold
    I don’t even think it would even settle it for a month. All the same tensions are there reconfiguring political forces for the future. I certainly would not accept a remain win as final (I’ve met no leave voters who would) and I don’t really think many the pro EU activists would accept another loss as final either.

  • Michael Cole 8th Apr '19 - 5:45pm

    @Jayne Mansfield:

    Before I posted my comment I skimmed his CV.

    I also noticed his statement: “Leave voters knew what they were doing in 2016. To suggest otherwise is simply elitist” @cjbickerton Wed 16 Jan 2019 14.15 GMT Last modified on Tue 2 Apr 2019 09.17 BST

    It is now plainly obvious that voters were influenced by lies told by the Brexiters. The principal leave campaign has also been found guilty of criminal funding irregularities.

    Not only that, but after three years we are now much better informed of the complications and dire consequences of Brexit. For example and as I recall, no mention of the Northern Ireland border was made in the 2016 referendum.

    Shortly after the 2016 referendum result Tim Farron expressed the view that the process had began with a referendum and should be ended by a referendum on the destination – not a political stitch-up.

    Surely in the light of all this and much else, the British people have the right to vote again. That being the case, I will tolerate being labelled ‘elitist’.

  • Glen,
    For once is right, a referendum wouldn’t end this disaster, once Pandora’s box has been opened it will take decades to put the ills released by this foolish vote back into the box. Tis though the least bad option (subject to remain winning) , that and revoke at least then the economic harm will start to decrease, but the bad feelings and ill will fester for decades. A bad decsion to try and heal the Tory parties woes at everyone elses expense. Well the box was opened and tis pointless pointing out how foolish it was, history and our descendants will take that as a given.

    We have reached a point where there are no good options, only less bad ones. Any that lead to further negotiations with the EU will be painful if enlightening to our real place in the world. I feel while the death of English exceptionalism and a belief we can all just stay in “Our little village” away from the world would be a plus the pain inflictted is too high a price to pay.

  • Peter Martin 8th Apr '19 - 7:23pm


    Possibly. It depends on the question on the ballot paper. If the choice is going to be between a Bad Deal and Remain then it is going to be just that.

  • Well really the question on the ballot should be between leave with no deal or leave with TM deal, since that would be honouring the result of the last referendum where the majority already voted to leave.
    However, no doubt the remainers would be screaming from the roof tops, so in order to placate them, i guess if we are to have another referendum it has to be between
    Leave with No deal
    Leave with a deal
    We should make sure that the new referendum is not held during Glastonbury or any other musical festival, so the youngsters can turn out to vote.
    However, 18-25 year old’s vote should only count as 1/2 vote each due to their age and not having to have lived that long under the EU and they have a much longer life span in order to rejoin, if they so wish
    Anyone who has lived outside the uk for more than 5 years should not get the vote, if you made the choice to start a new life outside the uk, you should not have a say on how the rest of us are governed and should be fully integrated into the new country for which you are resident.

    And cue Frankie ……….

  • Richard O'Neill 8th Apr '19 - 9:33pm

    One way of countering the undemocratic charge could be to have a threshold Remain needs to get to (perhaps 60% on a 50% turnout) in order to overturn the last referendum. At the very least it could have a requirement of getting more actual votes than Leave did last time. This could demonstrate a significant shift in the public will.

    If we go through the torture of having another referendum, the worst thing would be to have an inconclusive result at the end, particularly on a low turnout.

    But this is all hypothetical. The most important thing right now is to get a fresh extension.

  • @Richard O’Neill

    Oh i like the idea of that.

    I forgot that some remainers were complaining after the last referendum, saying that it should have required a super-majority.
    On that basis, and so LD’s and remainers can show that they are not just opportunists. I think Sir Vince Cable should be rewriting to Theresa May proposing a 2nd referendum, where the result can only be overturned by a supermajority of 2/3 (67%) on a turn out of 65% (which is still lower than the last 3 elections)

    Lets see the same people who were complaining about lack of supermajorities last time, put their money where their mouth is.

  • Leavers never accepted the result of the first referendum and campaigned for 40 years for another. At my age I will not get the chance to campaign for another referendum for 40 years so we had better get one soon!

    There should have been a threshold for the 2016 referendum, say 50% of the electorate or 60% of those voting for such a change to the status of the UK. For a new referendum that threshold should apply either way. Otherwise, parliament should decide (as they are trying to do at the moment), not the government alone.

  • The second referendum ‘movement’ is mainly about the egos of overwhelmingly white middle class people who have mostly always had everything their own way struggling to come to terms with finding their worldview on the losing side. The backlash against a second vote would be substantial, and I suspect would lead to an even higher leave vote. Pick that beehive with a stick if you like, but don’t cry when you get stung (again)…

  • Arnold Kiel 9th Apr '19 - 6:54am

    Of course there will always be a group of diehard leavers that can never be convinced. After all, there are also creationists, vaccination-opposers, capital punishment-supporters, sharia-followers, no-deal leavers and other extremists. We all have to live with them and uphold the dialogue. The point is: they will never again manage to “organise” a majority (and they know it), and that is good enough for me.

  • Imagine, if you can, that the 2016 Referendum result had been the other way round. What would you now be feeling if there was a building head of steam from Leavers for a second referendum? Would you not, in all honesty, be using the same arguments that they are using now: the people have spoken, how many times do we have to ask the same question, that was nearly three years ago and people may have changed their minds, the winning side cheated? I am a European federalist and felt utterly bereft by the result, but respect for democracy over-rides that. The only way that the terrible rifts in our country’s body politic can be healed, and it will take years, is to leave and take the consequences. Maybe even Leavers will start to look back on the 40 years we were in the EU as being a golden era.

  • Peter Martin 9th Apr '19 - 9:01am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “After all, there are also creationists………….”

    Yes, agreed, it is a problem in biology and geology. Some zealots claim that a supreme being created the world as it is in a matter of days then stopped and left us all to it. It’s also a problem in economics. Some fundamentalists cling to the belief that this same supreme being also created all the euros, dollars and pounds etc that we are ever likely to require and then left strict instructions that we should never, under any circumstances, make any more ourselves. That this was going against the wishes of the creator.

    His disciples preach the gospel of ‘sound money’. They’ve added the commandment of “neither a borrower nor a lender be”. Or, at least keep debts to 60% of GDP and deficits to 3%. Especially if you are a eurozone government. They happily point to Zimbabwe and Venezuela as examples of what inevitably happens when we disregard the economic gospels and start making our own currency units. The religious zealots do have a point. We can overdo it. On the other hand we can underdo it too. Then we see conflicts between the authorities and the people – just like we are seeing in France now. We see high levels of unemployment and underemployment. We recessions and depressions. We see the financial systems collapse as Government “run out of money”.

    But back to the original question. Is a second referendum undemocratic? I think the consensus of opinion in the Lib Dems is that it wouldn’t be. But a third one would?
    I’m not quite sure I follow that. But, in any case I’d be happy enough to have another referendum if I knew it wasn’t going to be the last one ever. In other words will there be another chance to get off the train before it reaches its destination of the United States of Europe?

  • The only way to move towards democracy is to discuss a written constitution. There should be rules about them.
    I have voted twice on Europe. I am prepared to vote again.

  • Arnold Kiel 9th Apr '19 - 12:27pm


    there is a fundamental difference: remain was and is entirely deliverable. A quick, cash-generative, exact-same-benefit, easiest in history, global,…, Brexit is not.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Apr '19 - 1:01pm

    I certainly remember that in the referendum it was put that there are countries like Norway and Switzerland which have trade agreements with the EU, so we could leave the EU and have something like that and so we wouldn’t have the problems that many were saying leaving the EU would give us.

    So it was certainly the case that some voted Leave on that expectation, and wouldn’t have voted Leave if they knew it would lead to leaving the EU without any agreement.

    It is only now, after the referendum, that the extreme right economics people who lead Brexit claim that leaving without an agreement is the only way forward. and otherwise we might as well stay in the EU, since softer Brexit means controlled by the EU without a say in its rules.

    Theresa May worked hard to try and get a compromise between these two contradictory assumptions of what Brexit meant, only to find that both sides rejected it, saying it does not meeting what they assumed Brexit would give, for opposite reasons.

    So, therefore, there is no majority for Brexit, since whatever form of Brexit takes place, some who voted Leave take the position “That’s not what I wanted, and I’d rather stay in the EU if that’s what we get”. The majority for Leave was small, so that even if only a fairly small number voted for Leave on the assumption there would be the sort of trade agreement that it is now being claimed is not real Brexit, take them out and Leave no longer has a majority.

    In short, the claim being made by the far-right economic extremists, who want Leave so that the UK can be a country run by and for the world’s shady billionaires, that only Leave without an agreement meets what the referendum was about, is wrong. If that is what they wanted it to mean, they should have made that clear, but they did not.

    If they were decent democratic people, they would accept that as there was only a small majority for Leave, it would be best to start off with a moderate form, and then let people take it further after they have experienced what that leads to. The claim that the concerns of all those who voted against Leave, and those who voted Leave with different assumptions should be completely ignored, with only the most extreme form of Leave being what should be implemented is far from true democracy.

  • David Evershed 9th Apr '19 - 3:13pm

    Chris Bickerton says “A second referendum would be a blow to the heart of our parliamentary democracy. It would introduce the principle – elitist to the core – that the legitimacy of a political decision rests upon a judgment about the knowledge that informed it”.

    In my view it is that a “judgement” has to be made that makes a second referendum undemocratic.

    Who makes such a judgemnet and what is their motivation? It seems that it is those who voted remain that are making the judgement and their motivation is to reverse the referendum decision.

    If Lib Dems see that as democracy then it is time for the Liberal Democrats to drop Democtrats from the name.

  • Robert (Somerset) 9th Apr '19 - 3:26pm

    Actually, if we had another referendum this year it would be the best of three, 1975, 2016, 2019!

  • Peter Hirst 9th Apr '19 - 4:52pm

    We should all be grateful that there is at least the theoretical possibility of revising our combined decision in 2016 based on better information and a fairer process and the challenge is to translate that possibility into reality.

  • Mick Taylor 9th Apr '19 - 5:38pm

    Henry Hooper. Our party is not denying anyone anything in Scotland as we’re not in any position to do so. Willie Rennie and his team are saying that they want Scotland to stay in the UK, because by and large that’s what Scottish LDs want, though of course there are LDs who voted for independence and probably would again if the chance comes.
    It is the SNP that want a further referendum, but they are not saying when.
    I do not know whether the Scottish LD view would change if the UK leaves the EU and the EU showed willing to have Scotland as a member. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

  • Mick Taylor 9th Apr '19 - 5:41pm

    Let’s kill the 2nd referendum meme. The 2016 referendum was the second one. I was an organiser for Yes in 1975 and supported Remain in 2016. I will vote to remain again if I get the chance.

  • Richard O'Neill 9th Apr '19 - 6:24pm

    @Mick Taylor

    A lot of us weren’t even born then! This would be the second vote in quick succession and therefore​ it is an entirely reasonable way to refer to it.

  • “It’s only Remainers that want another referendum, because they didn’t like the result”. Not entirely true, some Leavers are now in favour, including the Mail journalist Peter Oborne. Leavers have nothing to fear in any case from a confirmatory vote, as it will only show they were right all along. Won’t it?

  • David Evershed 10th Apr '19 - 12:19am

    Mick Taylor
    The 1975 referendum was not about Remaining or Leaving the EU. The EU did not exist at the time.

  • John King
    I don’t think fear is the right word, but it depends what’s on any potential ballot paper. Since there is so much confidence on here about how many people have changed their minds and how popular the EU put no deal the ballot. If leave support is, as alleged, shrinking and disunited then you would have nothing to worry about

  • Why the third referendum is called the second referendum? We already had two UE referendums.

  • Peter Martin 10th Apr '19 - 8:05am

    @John King,

    “Leavers have nothing to fear in any case from a confirmatory vote, as it will only show they were right all along. Won’t it?”

    Well no it won’t. As Glenn says it depends what we are voting on. As I understand it, we’ll have a choice between something very close to May’s deal or Remaining in the EU.
    That’s not an acceptable choice and the Leave side likely won’t participate. So Remain will have an easy pseudo-victory, but it won’t resolve anything.

    You’d be better just revoking Art50 and save the cost of a pointless referendum.

  • Trevor Davies 10th Apr '19 - 9:07am

    Watching Good Morning Britain this morning and dismayed at the reporting of a possible year long extension,thus scaremongering.
    Why do media have to dramatise and not report it correctly. The EU are looking at up to a year long extension with the proviso we can leave at any time during that year. Makes sense to me, a short extension within a long extension agreement but I am not of the intellectual standard of a politician so perhaps I am missing something.

  • Frank Little 10th Apr '19 - 9:20am

    We had a second referendum and it was undemocratic because of the multiple breaches of electoral law.

  • Arnold Kiel 10th Apr '19 - 9:33am

    Some commentators here have apparently missed that no-deal has been excluded by law. This should be no surprise, as no-deal would be illegal. It would breach commitments acknowledged by the Government, and the GFA, guaranteed by the UK. But we know by now that true Brexiters don’t mind being outside the law.

  • Arnold
    But you claim that the Leave vote is now virtually non existent, why so scared. It’s also a the default setting of the EU if no deal is reached. No deal currently does not have parliamentary backing, but this is not the same as saying it is illegal. A change in majority could overturn it. So say if a conditions for getting the government to agree to hold another referendum is to put No Deal on the ballot it can go on the ballot paper. Also a government took us into the EU without a referendum and a government could take us out without one. You’re always claiming that decisions need to be taken by parliament. As far as I know parliament is elected, not selected and thus can be changed by a change in government. This is one of the great things about having no written constitution and a political system based within the borders of a nation state. The other advantage is that parliament can be dissolved by a vote of no confidence thus forcing another general election.

  • Irwin Sandora 10th Apr '19 - 10:51am

    What amazes me that amid non-stop repetition of poor democracy, the fact that pro-Brexit campaign used anfair tactics, such as misinformation and lies, has been acknowledged. It seems to me that politicians telling lies in campaigns is allowed in democracy more than repeating a referendum on the same issue. What a hypocrisy!
    That means that the International Olimpic Committee is following undemocratic policy when withdrawing olimpic medals from those who cheated in the competition?

  • Glenn,

    let’s look at it practically: if the UK leaves with no deal, it would still be obliged to observe the NI-backstop because of the GFA (unless it wants economic meltdown, violence and thousands of troops again in NI). Before resuming any talks, the EU would demand payment of the divorce-bill in full, and the mutual assurance of citizens’ rights is naturally in both side’s interest, unless the UK wants to trigger a massive exodus of Europeans and inflow of UK pensioners. This or the quickly succeeding Government would quickly comply; no Government of a civilised nation would survive industrial standstill, a massive replacement of workers with pensioners and a civil war in a province for more than a few days. No-deal would therefore lead to material compliance with the WA within days or weeks, i.e. it is a meaningless concept. Parliament knows that, and would therefore never seriously entertain the idea or, even more ridiculous, present it to the people as a serious option.

    But, to challenge your viewpoint further, what would happen, if no deal won in a referendum? Would it mean an eternal prohibition for any UK Government to ever negotiate constructively with the EU (potentially leading to a deal which is prohibited) again? If not, how would no-dealers define Government’s permissible solution space (ideally without a series of referenda, as Parliament has been take out of the picture by popular will) ? You see, no deal is a totally ridiculous idea.

  • Peter Martin 10th Apr '19 - 1:35pm

    @ Arnold @Glenn,

    Of course “no deal” this time doesn’t mean there won’t be no deal next time. It takes two to make a deal. Maybe there’ll be a deal next time? I don’t know. I’m personally OK with having a backstop in place to keep the Irish border open until we have a proper FTA in place.

    I’m not OK with coughing up £39 billion (or is that £50+ billion by now?) without having that deal. Or a partial deal – in which case we can make a partial payment. I play a bit of bridge from time to time. It’s often not a good idea to lead off with your Ace just to see your opponents drop a 2 and a 3 on it!

  • Arnold Kiel 10th Apr '19 - 2:40pm

    Peter Martin,

    of course you know full well that the 39-50 Billion cover existing obligations and are due irrespective of the existence or nature of future arrangements. They will now go up further, unless the UK can live with the extension eating into the transition period, unlikely at the current rate of progress in deciding, let alone implementing anything. The PM has just proposed the WA without the (anyhow non-binding) political declaration to Parliament, clearly conceding the non-conditionality of the payment.

  • Peter Martin 10th Apr '19 - 3:06pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    Just what the UK owes is a matter of legal opinion. But is it sensible to resolve such an question in the law courts? The sensible course of action for both the UK and the EU would have been to negotiate a trade agreement, or at least make as much progress as was possible, in parallel with the withdrawal agreement. But Donald Tusk ruled out that option at an early stage.

    If we’d had the parallel discussions, the Irish border issue wouldn’t have been as problematic as it has turned out to be. But more importantly the EU would have had an improved public image and mutual relations would have been much better. At present the EU seems to be only interested in its it £30-£50 billion. We’ll have the money first, thank you very much, and then we’ll tell you later just what you’ll get in return! That doesn’t go down at all well.

  • Arnold Kiel 10th Apr '19 - 5:36pm

    Peter Martin, again, some basics:

    1. It makes perfect sense for the EU not to discuss future alternative arrangements with members while they contemplate leaving.
    2. The WA could have been done and dusted in 2 1/2 months, not years. It is very trivial and entirely predictable; just the Tories were too deluded and divided to understand this.
    3. Then, almost 2 years would have been available to discuss trade, more than enough.
    4. There is consensus between the UK Government and the EU about the divorce settlement.
    5. The EU still does not want that money; it much prefers the annual net contribution. The UK wants to settle all accounts in order to leave.

  • Peter Martin 11th Apr '19 - 10:15am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    I suppose you’re right. It does make ‘perfect sense’, from an EU perspective, to demand £39 billion (or whatever) and, later, only when the money is paid over will the EU tell the UK what, if anything, we’ll get in return by way of a free trade deal.

    It’s not the way people normally do business, though.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Apr '19 - 2:15am

    David Evershed

    In my view it is that a “judgement” has to be made that makes a second referendum undemocratic.

    Ok, so if you are a worker, and someone employs you to do a job, and they ask you to do X because they want Y and X will lead to Y, what should you do if you know X will lead to the opposite of Y? I think you should ask them “Are you sure you want X when it will not lead to Y?” rather than just do X without telling them your expertise tells you it won’t work.

    So it is here. Many who voted Leave said they did so because of unhappiness about the way our economy has gone, leading to our country run by and for millionaires. They want to leave the EU to turn the clock back to our country as it was before the 1980s when there was more government control and less businessmen control.

    Er, ok, but who are the key Brexiteers? The likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, who have a clear plan of what they want to do and hard Brexit will allow them – to push our country even further down the extreme free market path started by the Thatcher government.

    So, if we leave the EU, it puts those in control, and they will use it to give the precise opposite of what most who voted Leave did so in order to get. Our economy has changed so much that the old idea that the likes of Jeremy Corbyn has back in the 1980s, that leaving the EU would enable us to have a more socialist economy can no longer apply – and I’m not aware of Corbyn or anyone else having any plans for Leave to do so, because they know that’s now impossible.

    Under those circumstances, I think respect for those who voted Leave and explained clearly why they did so means we have to ask them “Are you sure it is what you want?” and explain why our knowledge says that it won’t give them what they say they wanted. I.e. a second referendum.

    Not doing this is the fraudsters way of doing things – trick people into agreeing for something you know will lead to the opposite of what they really want, and then refuse to let them escape from the damage by using the line “It’s what they agreed to – so, how dare you challenge us when we give it to them?”.

  • William Fowler 12th Apr '19 - 9:03am

    The 39 billion is made up of two sections, payment for access during the transition period (no more than we would pay if we stayed in the EU) and the other 20 billion spread over the next forty years to covers things like pensions and projects that are already underway… so we will not be paying anything up front and if we left immediately with no deal would save roughly half that money for not paying for access… although the EU might still demand the money and threaten all kinds of nastiness to get it, would all depend who is PM and who calls whose bluff, I guess,

    I would like to see no deal versus remain in second referendum as no-one really wants May’s deal and the third of the country who want a proper Brexit would at least have something worthwhile to vote for. Madame May now seems less outraged by the idea of a second vote, if parliament wants it then she will not stop it.

  • Peter Martin 12th Apr '19 - 10:26am

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    As us leavers aren’t considered very bright, I thought I might just have a try at simplifying your previous post. All those X’s and Y’s don’t make for simple reading.

    So how about ” Yes we know that you voted to Leave the EU after some 80% of Parliament had voted in favour of asking you the question. However the result wasn’t quite what we expected, otherwise we’d have never voted to ask you in the first place. We believe that you didn’t quite understand the question or wanted to answer a different question. So our expertise leads us to believe you should now have another try and give another answer”.

  • @Mick Taylor. I suppose 1975 was 44 years ago, but it does beg the question that if we plan to leave the EU more than 3 years after the 2016 vote surely there needs to be another mandate from the electorate anyway. The Prime Minister called an Election in 2017, just two years after the 2015 Election. For such a momentous decision as leaving the EU on a specific kind of deal a confirmatory vote is plain common sense. Democracy it seems is a moveable feast.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Apr '19 - 11:39pm

    @ Peter Martin

    Can you please just take seriously what I am saying?

    Leave will lead to a more extreme free market economy, it will push Britain further and faster down what the Thatcherites started, and all subsequent government took further. That is clear because in their own discussions the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg have said it.

    So are all you people who voted Leave firm supporter of Margaret Thatcher and right-wing economics? Well, many of you come from places where there wasn’t much support for that, and many of you have stated clearly that your vote for Leave was because you don’t like the way our economy has made our country run by and for millionaires.

    I am treating you with respect by nothing that and thus wanting to ask you “Are you sure that’s what you want?” before what you voted for hands over our country to the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to give them the power for what they want to do – push our country even more extremely down the way it has been pushed by all the right-wing government we have had since 1979.

    I wouldn’t be saying this if there was a clear left-wing version of Leave being proposed. But there isn’t. All we have is Jeremy Corbyn’s soft Brexit, meaning we keep to the EU rules, but don’t have a say in them – which Johnson and Rees-Mogg have rejected and said it’s better to stay in the EU if that’s what Leave gives us.

    So, in that case I do think it is fair to ask you what form you do want, given that they are completely contradictory.

    What am to do if you can’t answer that question?

  • Mathew
    You say this every time. The fact is that it was a Conservative government that took us into the common market, it expanded during the Thatcher years and it was a Conservative government that took us into the EU. You acknowledge yourself all the stuff you disliked happened whilst in the Pan European political project and not only that it speeded up and increased. Plus as Greece demonstrates the EU is right-wing economics. The EU stops nothing. The other point is this waving bogeyman figure like Boris Johnson or Reece Mogg around as if people will be forced to vote for them is hysterical. They could get into power in or out of the EU. This is because who leads the Conservative Party is down to the membership of the Conservative Party. Party leaders are not appointed or blocked by EU. General Elections decide which party gets into power and who becomes PM. Again governments and PMs are not appointed or blocked by the EU . As far as I know there are no plans to suspend general elections in or out of the EU which means the electorate still has the final say. Also there is no clear Left Wing case for remaining in the EU, either. The four freedoms are certainly not left wing in any economic sense

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Apr '19 - 7:54am


    You say this every time.

    Yes, and I have still had no answer to my question. What is the left-wing form of Brexit we could have? What is it that the EU is stopping us from doing that we could do if we left the EU that would resolve the issues that led to people voting Leave because they don’t like the way our economy has gone in recent decades?

    If there are left-wingers who have a different plan, tell us what it is.

    I keep asking, I have had no answer.

    Johnson and Rees-Mogg do have a clear pattern of what they want to do – end the way that the international co-operation in the EU stops shady billionaires from playing one country against another, moving their billions to whatever country kneels down and gives in to them.

  • Peter Martin 14th Apr '19 - 8:25am

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    To an extent you are right. It is possible that being out of the EU may well turn out to be not what I would like it to be. It is possible we could have a

  • Peter Martin 14th Apr '19 - 9:14am

    “What is it that the EU is stopping us from doing that we could do if we left the EU…………….If there are left-wingers who have a different plan, tell us what it is.”

    If we had a left Labour Government I don’t think you need me to tell you what will be on the agenda. We could have the return of British Rail. That would be problematic under EU rules. If we’d never privatised the system in the first place it would be more difficult for the EU to insist on us breaking it up – but, for example, that is happening to some extent in Germany.

    Personally I’m not totally sold on the idea of re-introducing British Rail but I would be much more sympathetic to renationalising the utilities of gas , water and electricity. They are effectively under so much regulation that they may as well be publicly owned. Competition is a sham. The gas, water and electrons is in the national pipelines and cables have to be owned by a single entity. Then somehow for a fraction of a second as they pass through our metres they are owned by a distributor and then the distributor sells them to us. It’s all quite meaningless.

    I don’t know what the EU will say about that. But that’s not really the point. In the ’75 referendum there was no suggestion that the then EEC would have a problem with the then existing British Rail. That all came later. We have recently seen some EU rulings against Trades Unions, such as in the Viking dispute, which are of concern and will likely be much more of a concern as the EU continues to move to the right.

    If there is one lesson that the British deep establishment will have learned during the last few years, it is that referendums are not such a good idea. We’ll never be asked about the EU again. So we have to make a judgement on where the EU is going and what “ever closer Union” means. It means the United States of Europe. IMO. My guess is that won’t happen because the eurozone won’t last long enough and the EU will break up as a consequence. But I’m not a clairvoyant! I could be wrong. I’d put the chances of a successful EU metamorphosis to the USE at maybe 30%.

    But I don’t want to be a part of it.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Apr '19 - 9:48am

    Peter Martin:
    The USE can only happen with a unanimous vote of all member countries. So, if we stay in, we can stop it by using the veto. So unless there is a fundamental re-evaluation of the UK position, USE will never happen.
    Various: The 1975 referendum was effectively about whether or not to stay in the EEC. The 2016 referendum was about whether to stay in the EU. Same question really, since we had already joined in 1973 before the 1975 referendum. It is sheer semantics to say the EU didn’t exist then, because the EEC changed its name to the EU through a treaty variation which was agreed by both the government of the day and parliament.
    So there have been two referendums. Any further one would be the third.

  • Peter Martin 14th Apr '19 - 10:53am

    @ Matthew Taylor,

    When was the last time any country used its veto on a significant issue? The system now relies on consensus and qualified majority voting much more than the use of the veto. Neither the Maastricht nor the Lisbon Treaties met with the approval of many EU governments including our own. So why didn’t we just veto those? Politically it was just not practically possible even if might have been theoretically.

    The change from the EEC to the EU was much more than a name changing exercise. Constitutionally the EEC ceased to exist. This was pushed through entirely from the top. Most people in Europe were quite happy with things as they were. They understood the need for a tading and economic community. They, largely, didn’t want a union.

    The change from the EU to the USE will be similarly implemented. We won’t be able to prevent it. We will likely be given the option not to join in which is effectively just leaving the bloc as we are planning to do now.

  • Mathew
    Brexit is neither innately Left nor Right wing. Nor is the EU. That comes down to how people vote whether we are in the EU or not. For me leaving the EU is an end in itself. I don’t believe in stuff like pooled sovereignty or the EU parliament.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Apr '19 - 12:07am

    Peter Martin

    But that is democracy. We get what we vote for.

    No we don’t. For example, in 2010 for every 2 people who voted Liberal Democrat, 3 people voted Conservative. But the result of our distortional electoral system was that for every 1 Liberal Democrat MP there were 5 Conservative MPs.

    The consequence was that only one government could be formed, because there were not enough Labour MPs to make a Labour-Lib government viable. If there had been proportional representation, there would have been. The LibDems would have had much more power, with more MPs and the ability to choose between the two alternatives.

    It would have been hypocritical of the LibDems to support a multi-party system, then reject what it must lead to, by disagreeing to form a coalition. Had no coalition been formed, we’d have had the stalemate we have now over Brexit but with all government duties, with every possible alternative voted down. However, the idea that coalitions involve compromises did not comes across, so people just assume all LibDems supported with enthusiasm everything that the Tories did.

    That led to the destruction of the LibDem. People punished the LibDems for supporting the Conservative by voting for an electoral system that supports the Conservatives.

  • Peter Martin 15th Apr '19 - 7:45am

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    I suppose it’s inevitable that every conversation with a Lib Dem will veer towards their usual hobby horse of PR!

    For what it’s worth, I supported the idea of the AV for reasons much discussed at the time of the referendum. I’ve seen that can work very well in Australia. But we had the vote and my side lost. We just shrugged and accepted it. We didn’t carry on about it for years afterwards.

    The end result is that every MP has to obtain at least 50% of the vote. You might argue it is not true PR. But then nothing is. There’s always some rule, such as 10% threshold or whatever, designed to keep out the minor parties to some extent.

    You’d better hope that if we do have a PR system that the threshold is set at lower than 10% otherwise the Lib Dems mightn’t be allocated any seats at all!

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Apr '19 - 8:44am

    @Peter Martin
    “I suppose it’s inevitable that every conversation with a Lib Dem will veer towards their usual hobby horse of PR! ”

    It isn’t a hobby horse – it’s about fundamental reform of our political system

  • Günter Burghardt 14th Oct '19 - 12:50pm

    For the record: The second Danish referendum on the Maastricht Treaty (56.7% Yes in May 1993 after 50.7% No in June 1992) and the Irish Yes on the Treaties of Nice in 2002 (62.9%) and Lisbon in 2009 (67.1%) reversing the No votes (53.9% in 2001 and 56.3% in 2008) had not been an exersize of democracy?

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