If there is to be a second referendum on membership of the EU, as I hope there will be, then prepare for controversy galore. The original question on the ballot paper – This or Not This – may have been vague, but it was simple and the campaigning straightforward. I can think of a number of significant and unavoidable differences next time round that will rustle a few feathers. The most obvious complication being caused by a potential third choice on the menu – May’s eventual deal with the EU, when and if that ever comes. Remain, Leave Hard or Leave Deal.
The Campaigns Teams
In 2016, all four of the main UK political parties campaigned for Remain. Both the government and the shadow government supported Remain. The campaign for Leave was left to UKIP and stray renegades like Boris Johnson and Kate Hoey. But how would they line up in 2019? One would imagine the government will campaign for the Leave Deal. But almost everybody outside No 10, Remainers and Leavers alike, are contemptuous of this ‘Deal’.
I suspect that May will permit MPs outside her cabinet to join whichever team they like. If she demands that cabinet members campaign for Leave Deal, I suspect there will be a significant number of resignations. She may indeed be unable to form a cabinet fit for purpose. Which would lead to interesting times. As for Labour, there will be similar divisions. Which may leave the Lib Dems leader, Vince Cable, to take charge of the official Remain campaign.
We are not finished yet. How about all the persons who committed various dubious, illegal and unethical acts in the original referendum? Some of them may have convictions or pending court cases in the event of EU Ref2. Can they participate?
The Ballot Paper
Life will be so much easier if there are, once again, just the two options on the ballot paper – Remain or Hard Brexit. We all now know what Hard Brexit is, what it entails and how stupid that would be. It’ll still have decent support, but I would be genuinely surprised if they managed to get 45% of the electorate to vote stupid. A more likely total would sit nearer 40% in my humble opinion.
As I’ve said though, there’s the distinct possibility that there will be those three options. Remain, Leave Hard or Leave Deal. The prospect has been raised that voters should choose a first and second preference. So imagine if you will, that Remain wins with a total of 60% of the vote based on those two preferences. Yay! And if the first preference shows that Remain tallied 40% and the two Leave options gained 30% each….well, the bitching would go on forever, wouldn’t it?
There are a multitude of methodologies for applying weight to different preferences, but ultimately, unless Remain wins off its own back, the arguments will rage on. Divide and conquer is a great way of getting a quick result, but an awful way to find a long term solution.
A breeze for Remain. Just get a chap up on stage to wave his arm at the horrendous Brexity mess before us and state, “Let’s not go there again, old beans”. But exactly what have the Brexiters got to offer as an inducement to voters given the admissions made by the likes of Ree-Mogg? They simply can’t trot out the same nonsense that they did last time. It’s not true, and we know it’s not true.
The Brexiters acknowledge that Brexit will make us poorer in both the short and medium term. So how do you sell benefits that are 50 years away? You can see the problem, right? But I can tell you the answer. They will continue with the ideologocal slogans that have become the bread and butter of a Brexit movement devoid of policy and substance. “Believe in Britain!” And the crazy thing? There are people who will vote for that.