Head to Head: A People's Vote

Brexit negotiations have reached an impasse; today, Theresa May will attend a summit in Brussels in which European leaders will decide whether sufficient progress has been made to warrant a concluding summit in November. However, with crucial questions such as the Irish border yet to be resolved, this is far from certain. Faltering talks with Brussels and concerns over the final outcome have given impetus to calls for a People’s Vote; a final say on the terms of the the Brexit deal, including a no deal. On Saturday, supporters will attend a ‘March for the Future’ in London to push for a second referendum.

So, what are the arguments for and against a ‘People’s Vote’ and which side are you on?

For a People’s Vote- Campaign Agent Ethan Moxam

The Brexit the British people were sold, no longer exists. David Davis told us in 2016 that, “there will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside”. Today we know that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. These promises that were made to us are as truthful as the one written on the side of that red bus. 

Since the simple ‘leave – remain’ referendum put to the electorate in June 2016, there have been significant political developments. The nature of Britain’s divorce settlement remains unclear, most likely resulting in a bad or no deal Brexit. 

It appears very unlikely that Theresa May will pass her Chequers bill through the Commons. Jeremy Corbyn has stated that Labour is ready to vote against the Chequers bill, if she does not meet his proposal to keep Britain in a customs union.

The first referendum was a momentous decision taken on by the electorate, and yet both parties leading the campaigns lied to them. The people were ill-informed. A recent YouGov poll has shown that 2.6 million people who voted leave, have abandoned support for Brexit. If those individuals had acted upon this change of heart in the ballot box, the Remain campaign would have won by a far greater margin.

A very small majority of just 51.9% of British voters had voted to leave the EU. Once we take into account voter turnout, only 37% of eligible voters opted for Brexit. It is clear this is not the majority of the electorate.

The terms on which Britain leaves, along with the state of our continued relationship with the EU, were never formulated in the 2016 referendum. It would be undemocratic for the British public not to have their say in the final decisions that decide the future of the UK.

Holding an additional referendum is common international practice. Countries such as Ireland and Denmark have used additional referendums, and never have they resulted in further civil discontent. Many have argued that it is not possible to organise a people’s vote in such a short time. Whereas when Croatia voted to join the EU in 2012, they organised the referendum in less than two months. Denmark organised a referendum on adopting EU rules in three months. 

Not only is it perfectly possible for our dedicated civil service to organise a people’s vote in the coming months, it is democratically the right thing to do.

Those against a people’s vote would understandably argue that such a vote would only deepen or exacerbate the divisions caused by the 2016 referendum. However, a second referendum will give us the opportunity to right the mistakes and deceptions made in 2016. A people’s vote will allow us to approach Brexit maturely, sensitively, based on fact checked analyses and the engagement of experts from all sectors of our society.

Against a People’s Vote- Campaign Agent George Royce

Ever since the Remain side lost the referendum on June 23 2016, they have lived in a state of perpetual denial. It's true, many people on the Leave side thought that they had come close but not close enough as the votes were actually being counted. However, they realised that their campaign had been much more effective than either side realised. Slowly but surely, it dawned on everyone in the country, that Wales, the Midlands and indeed the North of England had pretty much won the vote for the Leave side.

Why is this significant? Well, take a look at the General Election map and you’ll see that these areas of our United Kingdom are dominated by Labour. Working class communities came out in their droves, and voted to Leave the EU. Yet, it is the middle-class metropolitan Left who wish to now spit on their vote. No one can pinpoint when the terms ‘hard Brexit’ and ‘soft Brexit’ were coined but they weren’t used before the vote took place. The immediate game of wordplay began. Hard Brexit would be the brutally cold and sharp allegiance to democracy and carrying out the will of the people. Soft Brexit would be the cute cuddly kittens kind of Brexit where, the electorate is patronisingly patted on the head and told they didn’t know what they were voting for.

So here we are again, 2 years later and the Remain side have the absolute gall to call their usurping of democracy the ‘people’s vote’. I wonder what we had in 2016 then, when the British Parliament were given the largest political mandate in the history of our nation. I wonder why that wasn’t a ‘people’s vote’? You cannot say you uphold the wishes of the people, while not even attempting to implement their wishes in the first place. As the Remain side like to say whenever the UK has some good economic news like the lowest unemployment levels since the 1970s, ‘we haven’t even left yet’.

The calls for corruption by the official Leave side, ‘Vote Leave’ have been dashed to smithereens. They claimed that the campaign used Campaign Analytica for their Facebook ads campaign. This was controversial because Cambridge Analytica are known to illegally use user data to spread their messages. However, this fell flat on it's face quickly because Vote Leave actually used Aggregate AIQ which owned Cambridge Analytica once upon a time. The Remain side were trying to use guilt by association to dismiss Vote Leave’s effectiveness. It may have been a talking point for talking heads for the best part of a week, but quickly died down because the arguments wouldn’t hold water.

There has been no shift in the polls regarding support for Leave and Remain. In fact, the majority of the nation supports ‘No Deal’ and ‘CETA+++’ scenarios instead of any other deal. How can you keep a straight face, when you call for another referendum vote while the electorate would rather just leave onto WTO rules?

So, it really does come down to this. Do you believe in democracy when it doesn’t go your way?

Further Reading


TalkPolitics is proud to be supported by Audible. For 50% off your new membership, click here.