Can Parliament in the UK, and the UK government such as it is, ignore a march of about a million people and a petition now reaching for well over 5 million signatures? Sadly, there’s nothing to say that they have to, beyond triggering a debate in Parliament on calls for a new referendum on membership of the EU, and indeed for reversing Article 50 of the EU treaty and just cancelling the Exit altogether. Remember that when Blair’s government was determined to take Britain into Bush’s War in Iraq, a march of 1 million in London had no effect whatever. To war went British forces anyway. Public opinion? Pah!
ARTICLE 50 – MP’S WILL NEVER VOTE TO RESCIND IT, UNLESS…
But perhaps this time, the catastrophe of bitterness and uncertainty unleashed by that 2016 vote will persuade enough MP’s to support a Bill to launch a second referendum. For what it’s worth, rescinding Article 50, in my view, does not stand a chance if it is left to Parliament to decide. Parliament wants someone to blame if it takes any such decision, and they could not blame anyone but themselves, least of all “the people”. And Parliament will never find the courage to do that. However, if a Ref Two produces a big “stay” majority, Parliament will have every reason to dump Article 50.
But a second referendum is another matter. It must be clear to any but the most obtuse and exit-zealous that the consequences of leaving the EU are painful, expensive, and simply unnecessary. Consequences that would last a great deal longer than anyone might predict.
However, if a second referendum is called, and is conducted along similar lines to the first, then that carries with it the terrible danger of the mountain labouring to produce a mouse. Again. A mouse in the form of a bare majority, similar, even if the result is reversed, to Referendum One.
But before I suggest, plead for, beg for on bended knees, a set of rules which would avoid such a disaster, let me address the looming possibility of a referendum which asks us to vote on a “deal” – whatever deal that might turn out to be acceptable to the House of Commons. No-one but a handful will understand the complexities of any deal which might be under discussion. And, heaven forbid, worse still, any suggestion that a referendum should ask people to vote on which of several possible deals they prefer is a recipe for piling Pelion upon Ossa (Adding difficulty to difficulty; fruitless efforts. The reference is to the attempt by the giants in Greek mythology to climb to heaven by piling Mount Ossa upon Mount Pelion).
THE ONLY WAY OUT …
So, what is the best and cleanest way forward?
First, let’s agree that the status quo is that the UK is a member of the EU.
Then let’s agree that the referendum will do more no more and no less than address that situation – and not in the form of the confusing “leave/remain” choice of 2016. A simple question: Do you want the UK to keep its membership of the EU? Yes … or … No.
Next, the turnout must be 75% of the electorate. Failure to reach that minimum means that the status quo, i.e., membership, is not affected.
Next, a majority either way must be two-thirds of the votes cast. If that is not obtained, then the status quo, i.e., membership, is not affected. If a two-thirds majority is obtained, it will mean that for every person who voted one way, two voted the other, and that should be enough to stop any further complaints.
THE ONLY RULES THAT WILL WORK
So – no 75% turnout? no change
A two-thirds majority “yes” vote? no change
A two-thirds majority “no” vote? a clean and quick resignation from the EU, without any deals.
I can see that those who campaigned for a “leave” vote in Referendum One might scream the place down; such rules will favour a “yes” vote, they will claim.
Why? If those who are fervent exiters and zealots for a return to the past are sure of their ground, they should have confidence enough in their arguments to persuade the voters to vote “no” by a two-thirds majority.
We really cannot afford for a second referendum to be carried out any other way. We now all know where that 2016 bare majority of 1.3 million votes took us.
HOW CAN WE MAKE REF TWO HAPPEN WITH NEW RULES?
COPY THIS BLOG TO YOUR MP. MAKE SURE HE/SHE GETS IT AND UNDERSTANDS IT. PLEASE DO IT FOR THE SAKE OF US ALL