Lexit: On a Second Referendum

December 9, 2018

in Opinion

Originally posted to Facebook in January 2018. Edited for clarity.

Say we finish drawing up our Brexit negotiations in January 2019, and allow six weeks for a referendum on the matter. Your voting options will likely not be:

* Approve the deal
* Reject the deal
* Cancel Brexit and remain in the European Union.

They will be:

* Approve the deal
* Do not approve the deal

The EU referendum was hands down bar none the most disgraceful, vicious, racist, least intelligent political campaign I have ever seen in the UK. It tore apart families, friendships, increased hate crime dramatically and generally made everyone feel absolutely terrible and created a heavily class-based fissure in our society that still sees me having to awkwardly listen to people leaning in conspiratorially and telling me about “stupid” poor people and how we’ll ultimately rejoin the EU when enough old people who voted Leave die, assuming because I am middle class I am on their side.

And people are proposing we go through all that again? Why? So they can vote no? Do they realise that voting no on the deal doesn’t revoke Article 50, it just revokes the deal our government spent two years and £20 billion negotiating? That we’ll leave the EU by automatically reverting to WTO rules and implementing immediate border and customs checks with France and the Republic of Ireland? How can that be something people want?

I just don’t think anyone who is campaigning for a second referendum has given a second’s thought to what they are actually campaigning for. The opinion polls haven’t changed substantially since June 2016 – Bregret is not a significant phenomenon, despite everything. The petition for a second referendum has 140,000 signatures – the petition to leave the EU immediately has 138,500 signatures. The country is absolutely divided down the middle and there will be huge social upheaval whichever side loses.

I think that to judge by the way people talk to me about this, they genuinely can’t begin to fathom that they were on the losing side of a national argument and want to restore the balance towards themselves and against stupid poor and old people as soon as possible. It has led us down some very daft paths. Remember when when Gina Miller brought a court case to require Article 50 to be triggered by legislation and everyone really suddenly gave a shit about the importance of representative democracy, and when the Supreme Court ruled in her favour were gleefully posting about getting one over on Leavers and overturning Brexit and in the event, Theresa May simply put through a two clause bill delegating her the power to trigger Article 50 in an afternoon? This is that level of wilful delusion.

There are also plenty of outlets to campaign to shape what Brexit looks like that aren’t stupid:

https://www.tuc.org.uk/campaigns/jobs-and-rights-first-brexit
https://www.labour4singlemarket.org/
https://labourlist.org/2017/08/thousands-join-labour-campaign-for-free-movement-push/

 [Please note there were originally more links here but now in 2019 many organisations are swinging behind the idea of a second referendum in contrast to their previous stance, I have now removed them.]

I’m really worried about a second referendum campaign. The first was so, so vitriolic, so many Remainers has been emphatic that if you vote Leave, you’re racist, and most of the people who said this loudly and openly have not changed their opinion, and I just worry about what would happen if we have a second referendum that consists of Remain campaigners berating Leave voters for being stupid enough to vote Leave first time around and prompt a lot of people who *did* express racist views on immigration to double down and be even more racist, especially as their side won and a second referendum’s about trying to take that away from them. We know hate crime went up dramatically during that period and I don’t know why anyone would want to go through it again.

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