The problem was that there was no forward planning for what to do if the country voted to leave. David Cameron didn't think it would happen so called the referendum in a rush. Huge mistake. Apparently he told Donald Tusk that he only put forward the initial bit of legislation for the referendum because he thought that the Conservative Party would still be in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats by the time he would have to call the referendum and that they would block it. The Conservatives then won a surprise majority in the 2015 general election and he had to call the referendum by a certain point.The mayhem (no pun intended) we're seeing now, with Labour suggesting a second referendum, shows that holding the first one - the way it was held - was an ill-advised decision. You basically had the choice between status quo and a bunch of unknown options all lumped underr the "Leave" umbrella.
In retrospect, would it not have been better to plan for two referendums in the first place? Among those who voted leave, I'm sure there are many who consider remain a better option than "hard" brexit, and they voted leave because they thought a good deal could be made. Of course, there are those who want a hard Brexit too .. but I think saying "brexit is brexit, leave is leave" oversimplifies the issue. And shows that a referendum is not necessarily a good idea when the options are not clear.
So, if another referendum is held, will it just be "Heavy Brexit or no Brexit at all" or will "Negotiated Brexit" be thrown in as a third option, i.e. accepting May's deal with the EU?
The whole thing has been a mess. I think it was perfectly acceptable to ask the country what they feel about EU membership as most of the electorate haven't had a say since the nature of the EU has changed significantly since the UK joined however many years ago. We also never had a say on the Lisbon Treaty (with the infamous Article 50) because Gordon Brown signed it before he had to go into a general election. David Cameron did say that he would hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty but it was ratified before he became PM.
The problem with the way the 2016 referendum was organized is that there was only about six months between David Cameron calling it and the vote itself. Everyone went into the referendum blind with each side of the debate scaremongering and lying. We had to answer a binary question when in reality there is a spectrum of views across the country. The timetable for a referendum should have been something like:
- David Cameron campaigns for a second term as PM with the aim of publicly discussing and investigating the current state of the EU and the UK's membership of it.
- Once in office the government sets up cross-party parliamentary committees to look into the country's EU membership
- The government discusses potential reforms with the EU and what leaving would entail
- The public are asked what their opinions on EU membership are. This could be door-to-door, on the streets or via surveys.
- After about three years of this (3/5 years into the parliamentary term), the government collates all its findings and publishes a White Paper on what it wants the UK's future relationship of the EU to be. This would encompass the full spectrum of views across the country.
- The government's plan is debated in parliament and then MPs vote on a referendum on EU membership
- One year before the end of the parliamentary term the referendum is held with enough time for political parties to figure out how to approach this for their general election campaigns OR the country goes into a general election at the end of the parliamentary term setting out their plan for the referendum and the vote is held one year into the next parliamentary term
The problem with putting No Deal on the ballot paper is that there's no majority in parliament for a No Deal scenario so it would be almost impossible to put on a ballot paper. I also think the questions should be swapped since the 2016 referendum already answered Question 1. Instead it should be:The only reason to do another referendum is to ask about May's negotiated Brexit vs. hard Brexit. You could do a two part one:
Question 1: Should the United Kingdom complete the process of exiting the European Union?
Yes - exit the European Union (Brexit)
No - remain with the European Union (No Brexit)
Question 2: Should exiting the European Union be preferred on the previous question, do you support the Negotiated Exit Agreement of Whatever Date (The May agreement) or severing all ties (Hard Brexit)?
1. The May Agreement
2. Hard Brexit
Q1. Accept the deal: Yes or No?
Q2. If the deal is not accepted, should the UK leave the EU: Yes or No?
I wonder if that would lead to some people refusing to answer one of the questions in protest though.
I would rather not go through the months of crap required for another referendum. I tried to avoid the campaigns in 2016 and will do so again if necessary. We're basically in a No Win scenario here. Does anyone know how to beat the No Win scenario?