If a new referendum is held, what can we expect to happen?
Following Nigel Farage’s appearance on Channel 5’s Wright Stuff in which he said was ready for a second vote if it comes, there has been renewed talk of a new vote. A new ComRes poll for the Mirror even suggests that Brits would vote to stay at a margin of 55% - 45% if presented with a new opportunity to vote.
But what would a new vote look like? Here are seven points to think if a new vote does take place.
1. The question
This is probably the most important thing, but when people discuss the possibility of a new referendum there is often ambiguity as to what they mean. One option is a referendum on the final deal itself, which would have to take place at the end of 2018 or early 2019. On the ballot paper there would be the option to exit the EU with the deal agreed, as well as one or more options depending on who you talk to. These additional options include a rejection of the deal and a clean-break from the EU, falling back on WTO rules, or even the choice to reject the deal and remain.
There could even be a preferential vote with all three options.
2. The Conservatives
The Conservatives are now committed to Brexit, so most would back leaving the EU one way or another. The PM would likely champion the deal agreed even though she originally voted remain. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove would no doubt once again be leading figures in the Leave campaign while the likes of Anna Soubry and others would probably opt to remain if that were to be an option.
3. The Liberal Democrats
If the referendum were to be a binary choice between leaving and remaining, the Liberal Democrats would opt for the latter. However, if the vote were to be between leaving with the agreed deal and leaving without a deal, they could argue to remain in the EU nonetheless. Depending on the nature of the deal, they could reluctantly support it over no deal or argue for abstentions.
Labour would probably be the biggest losers of a new referendum. The party has done well to mask its EU divisions behind Jeremy Corbyn’s newfound momentum, but a new campaign would unstitch old wounds. The likes of Chuka Umunna would no doubt back a vote to stay if such an option were on the table, but the party’s official position would be trickier. Much would depend on the type of deal reached between the EU and the UK. One option could be timid support for the deal on the basis that a new Labour government would seek to make changes once in power.
Henry Bolton’s party would back an exit in a straight choice between leaving and remaining. But if the vote were to be between the deal agreed and crashing out, UKIP could opt for the latter to ensure a clean break with the EU. Again, much would depend on the deal reached, but if the PM makes more concessions, UKIP could well back the hardest of Brexits.
6. The SNP
At first, Brexit looked like it would lead to Scotland’s departure from the UK, but June’s election has put a sock in the party’s trumpet. If a new vote was a straight choice between staying and going, the party would probably opt for the former as over 60% of Scotland did last time, but the party might tone down its pro-EU tone to appeal to voters it lost last year.
7. Referendum clarity
The prospect of a new vote raises some fundamental questions about democracy itself. On one hand, the referendum was a final decision on the UK’s future with the EU, however, countries are made up of people and people can change their minds, especially when the facts change. The UK has shifted in recent years to one of referendums without a clear framework in place, which results in questions over how they should be conducted. There needs to be some sort of consensus and an official referendum body, which also deals with spending and fact-checking, to ensure a sensible, solid process.