“Here’s what I think”: The only way out

Tom Cleaver

Yep, we’re talking about the catastrophic soap opera that is British politics for another week. The “Brexit” saga has rolled on for another week, with “no deal” being avoided at the last minute and the deadline on the negotiation period put back to 31st October, and none of us are any the wiser as to how or if it’s ever going to end. Five and a half months can be a lifetime in politics; it is possible we could see great change between now and the end of October. However, it is also possible that very little could happen. The Withdrawal Agreement was signed five months ago, for example, and we’ve seen very little progress on the issue at hand since then if we’re all honest with ourselves.

As I wrote when I wrote for the first time about the UK leaving the EU, I was not enthusiastic about the idea of holding a second referendum on the issue. I felt that given the depth of feeling among some people and the fact that so many still believe the outright lies spouted by the likes of Nigel Farage and his ilk, we could be playing with fire in terms of allowing a disastrous outcome to win another referendum.

I’m still not enthusiastic about a second referendum to be honest. I think anyone who is enthusiastic about the idea of a referendum, especially on a subject like this one, probably needs to get a life. However, the country finds itself at a political impasse. Parliament has voted against the Withdrawal Agreement signed by the government, against every single other form of leaving the EU imaginable, and against not leaving the EU. In this case, it can not come to a consensus, and can not agree with itself on a way forward. Polling shows that another general election would more than likely return another hung parliament, and given that both of the major party leaders are “brexity” to varying levels we would probably find ourselves in the same situation again having wasted a few months of Article 50 time and more importantly our lives on said election.

“‘Leave the european union’ can basically mean whatever you want it to mean

That leaves only one way out of this impasse, the way out being a referendum. By calling a referendum with two clear and well-defined outcomes, we will at least find a final result. The last one was fundamentally flawed and has led us to this because only one of the outcomes was clearly defined. The other, “leave the European Union” is open to interpretation and can basically mean whatever you want it to mean. As has been shown in the three years since the last referendum, there are probably as many different ideas of “Brexit” as there are people who voted for it, which makes finding a consensus based on that vote pretty much impossible.

It’s for that reason that we need another referendum. The last one, as fiercely as it was fought, was fundamentally flawed. For clarity as much as anything else, we need to have a referendum after which we know exactly what is going to happen. The last one created only uncertainty; it poured smoke into the room, which still hasn’t cleared almost three years on.

“With the UK at a political standstill it must be the people who decide what to do next”

Further, there are many people who are now of age who would like to have their say in the biggest issue of their lives so far, who were not of age three years ago. I’m one of them: the UK goes to the polls in European Parliament elections the day after my 20th birthday, yet I was 17 during the last referendum and had to watch on as what has become the central issue of British politics was voted on by others.

For me, those are the reasons that we need a second referendum now. With the UK at a political standstill and its parliament unable to decide on a course of action, it must be the people who decide what to do next. Furthermore, the people must be given a choice of two clearly defined options, most probably being “remain” and the Withdrawal Agreement as it stands. The fundamental mistake of the last referendum, that being to leave one option open ended, must be avoided, in order to facilitate a clear decision being made by the electorate, and everyone finally being able to get on with our lives (if “remain” wins it). Where all other routes have failed, it seems to me that a second referendum is the only way out.