According to the 18th December editorial in the Otago Daily Times[i] there is some bother back in Blighty to do with Brexit. From 18,926 kilometres away it all seems rather simple.
As we (that is the editor of the ODT and I) see it, the issue was altered to the advantage of everyone in the UK (whether leaver or remainer) on 10th December 2018.
Taking a step back, in April 2017 the European Parliament effectively put the knockers on a second referendum. It said[ii]that a change of mind by the UK about leaving the EU “…….needs to be subject to conditions set by all EU-27, so that it cannot be used as a procedural device or abused in an attempt to improve on the current terms of the United Kingdom’s membership.” In other words, a political price should be set on the UK seeking to remain in the EU at a level that made leaving more attractive.
If so, what would have been the point of asking UK voters to reaffirm their decision to leave the EU? It would be asking UK voters to opt for an uncertainty, precisely one of the criticisms made of the first referendum. The only thing that voters could be told for sure about remaining would be that it would be more painful than leaving. What kind of a choice is that?
However, on 10th December the European Court of Justice issued a judgement that the UK can revoke its notice to leave the EU unilaterally and without conditions at any time prior to 29th March 2019[iii]. If the UK decides to remain in the EU, there is no political price. That is a matter of EU law and there is nothing the EU Parliament can do about it.
Accordingly, a second referendum becomes both sensible and necessary, so that UK voters can confirm, now they have clarity of the options available, that they still wish to leave the EU and if so, whether that should be in accordance with the agreement negotiated by the Government or without an agreement.
A second referendum is necessary because, to settle the Brexit question conclusively, we need to take it outside of Parliament. That was the point of the first referendum in June 2016 and it is the lesson of what has happened in Parliament since then. A general election will not do.
There needs to be a second referendum as soon as possible[iv] with two questions:
- Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
- If the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019 should it do so on the terms of the Agreement negotiated by the UK Government or without an agreement?
We should not feel bad at having invested so much passion and anguish into this difficult and important question (important for Europe, as well as for us). The 2016 referendum was necessary. We now need to reach a conclusion and to move on.
We should then demand a ban on any referendum about anything for at least the next twenty years.
[ii] Preamble L to the EU Parliament’s resolution on the Brexit negotiations. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2017-0102+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
[iv] I have been warned by a well-informed source that in the ordinary course it could take up to six months to organise a referendum. The circumstances clearly call for extraordinary and urgent steps so that one can be held before 29th March 2019.