Since the result of the first EU referendum, there have been calls for a rerun. Some have said that ‘Remain’ are sore losers; some have said they’d be stupid not to push for a rerun; some people want a vote on the terms of the eventual deal. May has floundered, Davis has put his foot in it, and Boris has fallen off the face of the earth. Asking for a second referendum is like jumping off a cliff and then running back up to do it again because you enjoyed it so much the first time: plain insanity. If, like me, you did want to stay in the EU, you will be tempted many times over the coming weeks to join the fight in the hopes that the future of Britain could have a second shot. Let me explain why this is an even worse idea than leaving Boris in charge of foreign affairs.
Firstly, we have been told that the first referendum must be discounted because we were lied to about the money that would be spent on the NHS, among other things. It is completely true that we were lied to by Brexit, but we were also lied to by Remain and a second referendum wouldn’t change that. We live in a world that the Economist describes as ‘post-truth’ where the truth or lack thereof in any issue isn’t important to the electorate that is voting. They don’t trust the ‘establishment’ because it is the duty of any politician to spin everything; this has been since Alastair Campbell first set foot in Westminster. The only difference with these lies is that this time those who are more politically active and the MPs in Westminster have suffered for them. Lets not kid ourselves that anything in modern politics really comes with an assurance of honesty, and lets not pretend to be outraged with what Brexit did when the people on both sides are equally guilty.
Secondly, you will be told that this referendum is advisory, and if politicians think they know better then the Parliamentary system in the UK dictates that they can overrule it. This is technically accurate, it would not be illegal if our politicians decided to ignore this referendum and they may well do so. Personally, however, I do not understand the point of having a referendum if you’re then going to argue that the public wasn’t qualified to make the decision. It begs the question, why was the referendum called in the first place? If the MPs decide they do know better that may be problematic, but lets not go through the motions of asking the people again hoping that they will get it right this time. Brexit is a matter of opinion and opinions are subjective. Therefore the public cannot ‘get it wrong’ in a referendum and the implication of this idea misunderstands what politics is in the first place. The issue here is that a party only calls a referendum that it knows it can win and in an almost unprecedented moment in British political history this has not happened. It’s not like referenda are some kind of new beast that we have to work out how to tame. There is no historical precedent that states we should redo a referendum because the public were required to use their own discretion as to the plausibility of each campaign.
Finally, we are given the idea of a referendum on the terms of Brexit after Theresa May has negotiated them. In other words, the Prime Minister can work out exactly what Brexit is and then we can chose to accept or reject it at that point. But I think that even if Theresa May negotiates the best Brexit deal that was humanly possible no one would vote for it. All the Remainers will reject it because they’re still bitter we are leaving. All the hard line Eurosceptics will reject it because it won’t be far enough for them. All the anti-Tory members of the public will treat is as a vote against May and will reject it. There would be no way that terms, however objectively good, would be accepted. We would be better off leaving it to May because a second referendum would be fought on everything but the terms of Brexit.
I’m fed up of the annoying buzz of Brexit on the news every time I turn on the TV and I’m bored of its pollution blackening the comment section of our newspapers and even my Twitter feed. Perhaps I don’t want another referendum because I’m too selfish to endure another round of the torturous monotony that it drags along behind it. Let’s not throw out our democratic foundations, our basic understanding of referenda, and our final scrap of dignity because we are bitter that things didn’t go our way. This issue all started with a silly spat between old Eton rivals, lets not end it with something equally mindless and embarrassing.