Be a Voice: A Second Referendum is Possible

By TalkPolitics Advisory Board Member Lord Tyler

With less than 65 days to go, and Theresa May’s Plan B looking no different to her Plan A, any hope that the UK would be able to make an orderly and dignified exit from the EU on the 29th March has been dashed, while MPs on all sides of Parliament realise that a second referendum just might be the solution to the deadlock over Brexit. 

Last week, more than a dozen Labour MPs came out in support for a second referendum for the first time at a Westminster photo call, arguing it was the “only logical option” if the party could not secure a general election.  

The MPs called on Labour to “join trade unions, our members and a majority of our constituents by then unequivocally backing the only logical option to help our country move forward: putting the decision back to the people for a final say, in a public vote, with the option to stay and keep the deal that we have”.

Key figures, including Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and other leading moderates, were even willing to openly defy party leadership by heading to Downing Street to lobby the Cabinet Office in a bid to get the government to support a second referendum. 

The Labour leadership seems unwilling to accept that it is the Labour Party that is vital in pushing a referendum forward and is too interested in toppling the government rather than breaking the deadlock on Brexit. Votes of no confidence show that while Tory MPs are willing to oppose the government’s Brexit strategy, they are unwilling to topple the government itself, meaning Labour’s attempts to opt for a snap election are wasting valuable time. 

Similarly, Theresa May and her top aides persist in their parliamentary games, using every possible trick to delay any firm decision making by MPs, in the hope that more time to reconsider her Brexit deal will force MPs to accept that her ‘bad deal’ is less disastrous that a crash no-deal or even a ‘People’s Vote.’ But more time does not always mean that the heart grows fonder, and while Mrs May delays the inevitable she has allowed opposition MPs on all sides of the Commons to unite in opposition against her deal.  

This week in Parliament has just proved that not only is a second referendum close at hand but it is also possible. In a debate last Thursday, I set out just how a second referendum could be enabled through a simple, two-clause “paving bill.” This would allow the Electoral Commission to begin the necessary preparatory work without having to wait for the main bill to get royal assent and become law.

On previous experience, the first bill could be processed through both houses of parliament in just a few days – meaning it could be effective as soon as next week. The rest of the process could then proceed in parallel.

A time table that has been outlined by myself and my Liberal Democrat colleagues mean that a referendum could be held within 16-17 weeks- a significant difference to the 12 months originally proposed by the government. After delivering her Plan B to the Commons on Monday, the Prime Minister abandoned this argument of time, instead, choosing to move onto the argument that a second referendum could ‘damage social cohesion’ and ‘undermine public trust in British democracy.’

It is because of this that all eligible electors must become more vocal and engaged in politics. The only way to shake up the politicians is to make sure you are REGISTERED to vote in good time for whichever poll comes first!

Image: Ashley Van Haeften @flickr