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Brexit: Why A Second Referendum Would Be Catastrophic

April 11, 2019

The 29th of March has been and gone and the United Kingdom is still in the European Union. 

 

The debate surrounding the next course of action is as vociferous as ever. One of the arguments - a second referendum - has been gaining more and more traction. It is said that by going back to the public, parliament can fully enact the will of the people by checking whether the deal Theresa May has negotiated is acceptable or even whether people still want to leave the EU at all.

 

This is one of the many options thrown around in Westminster and in the media, however, a second referendum is not the way to fix this mess. 

 

 

Enacting this idea would be catastrophic primarily because we have had a referendum and we must respect the result. The phrase 'largest democratic exercise in UK history' has been trotted out numerous times since the result was announced in July 2016. However tedious it is to have it repeated every time the result is questioned, it is accurate. 

 

The result was to leave the EU. The margins were narrow, the terms were ambiguous, but the result was to leave. We must respect the result of a democratic exercise or risk betraying the very democratic foundations upon which our great country is built and betraying the principles that our politicians are all too keen to claim they hold dear.

 

Similarly, a second referendum would set an incredibly dangerous precedent in our nation's political system. The losing side should always be allowed to criticise, voice their opinions and hold their opponents to account. That is the very essence of our parliamentary opposition. However, we cannot set a precedent of attempting to nullify and overrule a democratic political result because we do not like the decision. 

 

One of the many disadvantages to this happening would be the increased political divisiveness of the endeavour. The UK has not experienced this level of political animosity and division in decades and not only perpetuating these divisions but adding to them through another referendum could cause irrevocable damage to our political system and society. 

 

In addition, it remains unclear what options the public would be given in such a referendum. Would it be another simple in/out option? Surely not. Once more and more options are added it becomes far less likely any preference or winner will become clear, thus plunging us into further division. The last thing the UK needs at this point is more ineffective legislating and more policy lacking coherent direction.  

 

The possibility of a second referendum, therefore, would be a complete waste of time and tax-payers money. There is no law mandating a second referendum and there have been no campaigns run that promise a second referendum, making claims for it legislatively baseless.

 

Overall, calls for a second referendum are the dying attempts to overturn a democratic decision. I sympathise with the desire to pursue a course of action for the country that one perceives as being in the national interest. However, a second referendum is not the way to go about it. 

 

The damage caused by a second referendum, the money and time wasted and the lack of a democratic or legal basis for it relegates the idea to a hopeful impossibility. 

 

Author: Nathan Irwin

Nathan is a Politics and International Relations student at the University of Durham.

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