Farage is right: we need a second referendum

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Farage is right: we need a second referendum

For future unity of purpose and political stability, we still need to settle the UK’s membership once and for all. Voters were given a say at the beginning, so it’s only natural they should have one at the end, argues Andrew Woodcock. 

Boris’ political departure, perhaps temporary, is an omen of the growing sense of unease at what Brexit will really mean, and the degree to which the most serious questions about Britain’s longer-term future hang on this. Of course, we never could exactly have our cake and eat it! Not before time, people are waking up to the complexities and to the cliff-edge nature of what is going on

For those of us who have never been particular fans of referenda, the basic problem is that too many voters seem not to answer the question as set. All the more worrying on complex, multi-faceted issues where simple yes/no answers are hard. To which we might add that motives for calling them rarely include the best interests of the country – usually more about internal party management or political leaders letting themselves off the hook. Perhaps gravest of all is that a “neverendum” never really seems to solves anything. It raises more questions than it appears to answer- certainly the case with Brexit.

For sure, given that we had a referendum, we cannot simply ignore it. Even if flawed, it matters. There was widespread debate (albeit of a generally low quality). Its outcome was endorsed by Parliament.

But all said and done, there must also be political accountability and final democratic oversight over whatever the Government agrees with Brussels and the member states. In the referendum, voters simply did not know what they were signing up to, and what the alternative to Remain was. A jump in the dark at the best of times. Still worse with so much misinformation and so much at stake. Perhaps not so surprising since a studied ambiguity was the Brexiteers’ preferred tactic.

Leaving the EU, even on EEA terms, represents a revolution for the British body politic. The impact on the country will be huge. Doing so on one vote with less than 52% in favour (around 37% of those eligible to vote) makes consensus all the more flimsy. Can we really agree to this nuclear option without a clear consensus based on knowing exactly what we are signing up to?

We must be allowed carefully to weigh merits of what the Government has negotiated. and to ask whether that would, in reality, be clearly better than our previous EU membership- or else what we might otherwise be able to negotiate if still in the EU. We need to be able to make a proper informed decision about our long-term prosperity and security,

For future unity of purpose and political stability in this country, we still need to settle this properly once and for all. Only an informed vote on the final negotiated outcome with Remain as an option will do this.

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  • Andrew Woodcock
    Andrew Woodcock
    Andrew Woodcock is Director of Stabilitas Associates, an international relations consultancy. He was a UK diplomat for 25 years and is particularly focused on civilian military issues and on Britain having effective relations with the rest of the EU.
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