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A second EU referendum? Please, no.

September 7, 2016

Many of those most committed to maintaining the UK’s membership of the European Union are nailing their colours to the mast of a second referendum. The thought fills me with dread.

Haven’t we had enough of that deeply flawed, divisive process that reduces complex issues to ludicrously simplistic questions? I certainly have.

The EU referendum produced nothing but bitterness and division, with the focus of both sides entirely on negative campaigning. The Scottish independence referendum 18 months earlier was the same. It left our countries divided against themselves.

As someone who voted to Remain but without any great enthusiasm for the bloated bureaucratic monster the EU has become, I have a lot of sympathy with those who value continuing our close ties with Europe. I hope that as we loosen those ties through the Brexit process we don’t cut them entirely and that our European partners don’t either. I want a Brexit deal I can live with that maintains trade links, allows the appropriate and very necessary movement of people around the continent of which we are an important part.

I don’t want the sort of settlement that the little Englanders want.

How does that leave me when it comes to the Brexit deal? Do I wish it well or do I wish it ill? If I thought a second referendum was a good idea I would wish it ill so that ill-tempered, fractured negotiations lead to a deal that leaves the UK isolated and diminished both economically and politically. That sort of exit would be more likely to stir people into voting to reject it in a second referendum, although I do not share the naive optimism of many who think there are millions of people who regret voting Leave in June. I don’t want damaging negotiations. I want us to put the bitter divisions behind us and find a way our country can develop and prosper. I want a Brext deal I can at least live with.


Just when could you sensibly hold a new EU referendum?

The other difficulty in the campaign for a second referendum is timing.

When will the final deal be concluded? Is it when the flawed Article 50 process is complete? Surely not as that is merely to agree how we leave not what the future relationship with Europe looks like. I still believe we need to get on with that part of the process.

The final deal will be when we have the new trade and other important agreements on security, education, research and so on in place – whatever they may look like. That will be around the middle of the next decade. Most people – me included – will want to know how those impact them, their families, their businesses and their communities and that sort of detail will simply not be available at the end of the Article 50 process. A referendum at that stage would produce an ill-informed debate in a vacuum – and we have just had one of those.

A second referendum? Please, no.

From → Politics

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