With bookies reporting the odds on a second referendum shortening and Nigel Farage stating that we must prepare for another EU vote, could it really happen?
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The hot Brexit topic developing is that of the chances of a second EU referendum.
Bookmakers are shortening the odds on a second EU referendum happening, with William Hill now saying that this was, at 54%, more of a probability than a possibility and that it would happen before 2021.
And speaking in London at a Leave Means Leave rally Nigel Farage said that as far as he was concerned, a second EU referendum was getting more and more likely.
And at the same time the odds of May's deal being accepted by parliament are lengthening.
And underpinning this, are reports that senior cabinet ministers are now actively preparing for a second referendum and have discussed this with Labour MPs in order to break through the logjam in parliament.
But the three major problems they have are:
First Problem: how to create the opportunity for MPs to be able to have a legally binding vote to force the government to a. have a referendum and b. to extend or revoke article 50 to give them time to hold it, if required.
Second Problem: the pressure of time.
Third problem: what is the question on the ballot paper going to be?
On the first problem of getting MPs a vote on it, the PM, who is now safe in her position for at least 12 months, unless Corbyn leads a vote of no confidence in her government, has constantly reiterated that there will be no extension of article 50, no second referendum and no reversing of Brexit. So if her deal falls then we're in no deal territory. So the longer she spins it out while trying to force her own deal through the harder it gets for the second referendomers.
It also means that none of what the second referendomers want, is government policy. So it would be extremely difficult to engineer that legally binding vote anyway.
On the second point of time, as I've pointed out before, the clock is fast running down and the Electoral Commission has estimated that it would take 11 full weeks of parliamentary time just to get the referendum setup.
This assumes that the last referendum could be used as a template and it gets rushed through.
That's without all the referendum debate and voting itself to follow.
We now only have 14 weeks and 5 days left to Brexit day and 17 of those 103 days are taken up by the Christmas parliamentary recess.
We don't realistically have the time to do it. Unless we go cap in hand to the EU27, at great cost, to extend Article 50. Or we fully revoke the Article 50 process to make it as if we had never told the EU we were leaving and then have to start the exit process all over again when we again voted to Leave. And next time we should repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, before we did anything else.
And for those who advocate a rushed referendum to get an answer by March 29th, please consider if that would really be a legitimate exercise.
But on the third problem of what question to put on the ballot paper, parliament would probably still be split and unable to come to a decision.
There would be three main options: leave on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, take May's super Remain deal or go for a second referendum that would in all probability need an extension org revocation of Article 50.
Just a quick point to people who wonder why May's deal could still be on the ballot paper, if parliament has already voted it down. Governments make and ratify treaties such as the Withdrawal Agreement. But in the case of the withdrawal agreement, parliament has to say yes, in a meaningful vote, after government has agreed the deal with the EU but before it can be ratified.
So as long as the deal is government policy it could be put to the people and if they say yes then parliament would be obliged to yield.
Anyway, and these are just guesses, but up to about a quarter of MPs want to leave fully so would back the full WTO exit route, a third would back May's deal and the rest would back a second referendum.
Then you have to fight through the different choices of question.
It could be binary:
WTO vs May's deal.
WTO vs Remain
May's deal vs Remain.
or all three on the same ballot paper.
How long would that take to agree? And would they ever get over 50% of MPs to choose just one of those options?
Now, the Leave campaigners are gearing up for a second referendum, but what do they campaign for, if the MPs end up keeping the WTO option off of the paper?
Do they fight for May's deal, or for Remain?
They would almost certainly be forced to hand the vote over to May's super Remain or Remain by totally boycotting the referendum.
The considerations above are by no means exhaustive and I've probably left out many of the other possible considerations.
But surely all this just reinforces that we should now gear up for a managed WTO exit from the EU? Don't you think that would now be the least complex and most certain route to take?
And a final thought, if we ever did, for whatever reason, end up with May's deal – that would start a negotiating process with the EU for the full and final deal, which may take two or more years. So the government will be tied up for the future in exactly the same way as it has for the last two plus years.
Then, if and when we did eventually get that final deal, there would, of course, be calls for a referendum on that deal – with demands that, guess what, the option to rejoin the EU be on the ballot paper – you can see it coming a mile off!
Best we avoid May's deal like the plague!
So, please let us all know what you think by leaving a comment below.
Thank you for watching.
We must prepare for a second referendum. I’m not being defeatist, I’m being realistic. https://t.co/OwQx1gkina
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 16, 2018