Second Brexit referendum – could it still happen and how?

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MPS have voted against a second referendum – the first time the Commons have had a formal vote on the issue.

But does that mean it really is off the table?

Theresa May went to Brussels to meet with Donald Tusk
Reuters

Could it still happen despite the March 14 vote?

On March 14, an amendment calling for a second referendum was defeated by a huge margin in a blow to hardline Remainers desperate to stay in the EU for good.

Labour sat the vote out while the Tories voted against – condemning the motion to a landslide defeat.

The opposition claimed it was not the right time to push for another public vote, facing backlash from the SNP and Lib Dems.

Just 85 of Parliament’s 650 MPs backed a referendum put forward by Independent Group MP Sarah Wollaston, with a total of 334 voting against.

It’s the first time the House of Commons has formally voted on whether or not to hold a second referendum which could overturn Brexit.

Celebrating the result, Jacob Rees-Mogg blasted: “A second referendum, the so called ‘losers’ vote’, has now been defeated in the House of Commons so it is off the table.”

However, despite abstaining in the vote, Mr Corbyn said: “I reiterate my conviction that a deal can be agreed based on our alternative plan that can command support across the House.

“I also reiterate our support for a People’s Vote – not as a political point-scoring exercise but as a realistic option to break the deadlock.”

It is telling that despite Labour ordering MPs to abstain from the vote on another referendum, 25 Labour MPs rebelled and voted for it.

Peter Barnes, BBC News’ senior elections and political analyst, says that if there was another referendum, it can’t just happen automatically.

There would have to be a new piece of law to make a referendum happen and to determine the rules, such as who would be allowed to vote and the wording of the question.

It couldn’t be rushed through because there has to be time for the Electoral Commission to consider and advise on the referendum question.

The minimum time for all of the required steps including a statutory “referendum period” is about 22 weeks, or five to six months.

What did Theresa May say about a second referendum?

Before she quit, Theresa May spoke out repeatedly against a second referendum, at one point saying it could threaten the UK’s “social cohesion”.

She said it would “set a difficult precedent” and that the implications for the country were serious.

An analysis by Reuters indicated there was no majority in British Parliament for a second Brexit referendum among lawmakers.

 

What is Labour’s position?

Jeremy Corbyn is reportedly set to support a second referendum on Brexit after losing heavily in the European elections.

The Labour leader has been in favour of the UK leaving the EU for most of his time as an MP.

But he is facing pressure from within the party with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said it was time for the party to back a People’s Vote.

And Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said Labour now had to “take a clearer line on a public vote”.

Currently, in a convoluted policy, Labour has backed the option of campaigning for a public vote on Brexit if it fails to secure a General Election.

What are the odds of a second Brexit referendum?

Bookmakers Paddy Power currently have odds on a second public vote at 10/3.

Bet365 and BetFair are both offering odds of 3/1.

Donald Tusk told Theresa May the EU would not renegotiate their proposed deal
Getty – Contributor

What have polls indicated?

A poll carried out by YouGov on March 1 revealed that 51 per cent believe Remain would win if there was a second referendum, 23 per cent say the same for Leave and 14 per cent would be undecided.

From February 1 to March 1, the proportion of people who think there will be a second referendum jumped from 12 per cent to 19 per cent..

How would the vote work?

The SNP have said they would back a so-called People’s Vote and a number of Conservative MPs have also backed one.

So there could be a majority in Parliament for it but a second referendum will not happen quickly and the first stage is for there to be an Act of Parliament.

That will require the backing of a majority of MPs and it took seven months before Parliament signed off the previous referendum legislation in 2015.

Last time around there was a four-month period between the then Prime Minister David Cameron announcing the referendum in February 2016, and the vote taking place on 23 June.

But the Electoral Commission has said in future there should be at least a six-month gap to allow enough time to register campaigns and put counting officers in place.

There is also the question of what to do about Article 50.

This could be avoided if the EU agreed to extend the Article 50 deadline – but that would need to be unanimously agreed by all EU member states.

Then there is the question of what to put on the ballot paper.

If there are three questions – for example accept a negotiated Brexit deal; stay in the EU; or leave with no deal – then just 34 per cent could decide the winning option.


When was the first EU referendum?

The first referendum on EU membership took place in 1975.

Two-thirds of voters (67.23 per cent) backed the continued membership of the European Economic Community, which the UK had joined only two years before.

Under Harold Wilson’s leadership, the Labour Party was trying to present to the public a different version of EEC membership to get a better deal.

The EEC was integrated into the European Union after it was created in 1993.

In June 2016, Britain voted to leave the EU after 17.4million people backed Leave compared to 16.1million Remain voters.

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