A three-way vote would be complex and potentially divisive. But if Remainers want a new referendum, this is the only way it could be secured—and could, even, achieve consensusby Chaminda Jayanetti / July 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
Justine Greening’s call for a new referendum on Brexit lit a fresh fire around the self-immolating Conservative government.
The most senior parliamentarian so far to call for a second vote, her intervention gave new impetus to Remainers clinging to hopes of staying in the European Union.
Significantly, she called for a three-way referendum—offering voters a choice of Brexit with whatever deal Theresa May secures, Brexit with no deal, or remaining in the EU.
This potentially serves the interests of both “hard Brexiters” outraged at the Chequers agreement, and “hard Remainers” wanting to stay in the EU rather than settle for a softish Brexit.
However, even were such a referendum to gain widespread parliamentary support, there are numerous practical obstacles to clear.
The timing issue
The most significant problem is timing. Unless the Article 50 period is extended—which requires the consent of EU member states—the UK will leave the EU next March.
In that time, the government would need to pass legislation to enable a referendum, the wording of the question would have to be agreed, and campaign rules would need to be thrashed out. This seems highly unlikely.
But there is another timing issue—what deal will actually be agreed by the time Brexit occurs.
The Withdrawal Agreement under which Britain leaves the EU—which must be reached by next March—merely has to agree the ‘backstop’ arrangements that will kick in if there is no final deal.
The trading arrangements themselves can be thrashed out during the subsequent transition period, set to run from March 2019 to December 2020.