A People's Vote, Put Simply

By Blog Writer Joseph Monk

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations has led to a heated debate as to which is the best direction for the country to take. Many observers will have encountered the phrase `no deal is better than a bad deal` and that `nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’, but what does this actually mean?

The hard Brexiteers, who want a complete breakaway from the European Union, would advocate a no deal scenario over what some see as a ‘fudged’ proposal which would keep Britain as a rule-taker despite the fact it no longer attains membership to the European Union. However, others see this as catastrophic as a no deal would potentially leave Britain out to dry. In contrast, firm leave advocates would argue that this could leave Britain free to trade with other powerful global actors such as the US, China and Japan. These three countries alone are in the top five for GDP growth, thus, they argue a no deal wouldn’t necessarily be catastrophic. 

Aiming to ensure a deal is made, Theresa May has the unenviable task of trying to compromise with the Brexit faction of the party, whilst also combating concerns from the 48% of the electorate that feel their voices are being cast into oblivion. The Chequers deal she presented to the meeting in Salzburg recently has been laughed at by the 27-member states, reiterating the reaction of many in Britain who feel the plan is inadequate. It has been regarded as a massive `fudge`, with many compromises over there being no border between Northern Ireland in the UK, and the Republic in the EU; rights of EU workers in Britain; and subsequently, trade between EU member states once Britain’s tenure in the EU has ended.

With what’s at stake, it’s no surprise that there is momentum for another say on the future of the country. Figures seen as part of the Liberal Metropolitan elite – Alistair Campbell, Nick Clegg, Lord Adonis, along with the Liberal Democrats – want a people’s vote. Essentially, this is another referendum, but it is not being cast in these terms. Given the unpredictability of the current situation, those in favour of a people’s vote believe the British public should have a say on whether to reject the deal, thus causing a vote of no confidence in May’s government; reject the deal and stay in the EU; or accept the deal. Consequently, this offers no benefits to those that voted to leave. Advocates of a people’s vote declare that Brexiteers didn’t know what they voted for and thus should be given the opportunity to make the right choice with a people’s vote. It was the words of David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, `if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy` that gives impetus for this.

The question is whether this is a second referendum or not? Ultimately, it can be observed that it is defying the will of the people and having another vote could cause political turmoil and discredit any faith people have in the democratic process. This is what many in the Brexit camp argue. In addition, what if the outcome is very close as it was back in June 2016? It could be seen as a best of three and so on until there is a decisive result. 

The debate over another vote has caused much division between the mainstream parties. At the party conference this week, Labour have concluded that it will reject the Prime Minister’s deal unless she accepts their proposal to keep Britain in a customs union and protect consumer standards and workers’ rights after Brexit.

Whether this is for self-interested purposes or not, if Parliament rejects May’s Brexit deal it is thought Labour could force a vote of no confidence in the PM. Failing that, it will generate impetus for another referendum. With six months to go until Britain are to depart from the EU, it seems that events preluding that could make the prospects for leaving ever more in doubt.

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Image: Megan Trace @flickr

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