Brexit should have already occurred, but the EU has granted the UK an extension until April 12th. The UK must decide how to execute Brexit now, and a second referendum is a justified way to approach perhaps the most significant political change the UK has seen in decades. The UK is financially prepared to organize the 2019 European Parliamentary elections at the end of May. This offers a unique opportunity. The UK could hold another referendum in conjunction with EU elections.
A second referendum has been claimed to damage trust in democracy, or that it would simply undermine democracy. However, what would be more democratic than letting citizens decide on how Brexit is carried out, now that they can actually know what Brexit means? During the Brexit referendum, no deal had been negotiated so no one actually knew what leaving the EU meant in practice. In addition, many of the arguments used in favor of Brexit turned out to be lies after the referendum. A simple referendum fueled by an untruthful campaign could not possibly give the government complete control on how to leave the EU.
Less Important Things Have Warranted More Than One Referendum
When New Zealand wanted to change its flag, after a proposal by their prime minister, a two-round vote was conducted. In the first round, the best alternative flag design was selected, and the second round was between the new alternative design and the old flag. In the end, the referendum was widely criticized and the electorate deemed all the alternatives worse than the current design and voted against the change. If the people would have voted in one round to change the flag with a 51% majority, without knowing what the change was, would the government of the country have been able to freely choose any kind of design?
The Brexit referendum was not designed, in the same way, to be a two-round vote. This seems to hint that the government can execute Brexit in any way they see fit, even without the blessing of the electorate. However, you should be able to know what concrete changes will occur when you vote on something. The referendum should have originally included a plan for a second referendum after a breakup-deal had been negotiated, if the leave-option won the first round. At first, David Cameron did not believe that the Brexit-referendum would have been carried out, even though he promised this during the elections. When the referendum was conducted, it is possible that he trusted that his pro-EU side would win so much that he did not bother to consider what to do in the case that the people would actually vote to leave. After he lost, he resigned and left the mess for others to clean up. Now there is a chance to make amends for mistakes of the past and let the people decide on how to carry out Brexit in a concrete way.
Brexit is significantly more important than the New Zealand flag debate, and it may even lead to a flag change, if Scotland and/or Northern Ireland decide to leave the kingdom as a result of Brexit. Brexit would, in any form, cause fundamental changes in the rights of citizens, as well as to the economy and international standing of the UK. A change of this magnitude needs more democratic legitimacy than it currently has.
“No Deal” is Not A Real Option
Brexiteers fed up with the length and complexity of the exit process have started to accept the UK leaving the EU without a deal. This is not a real option, for it would cause all kinds of social and economic problems both within and outside the UK. It may even spark the return of violence to Ireland. A no deal-Brexit is Theresa May’s only bargaining chip against the EU. However, holding a gun to your own head is not always a good strategy, especially if your own citizens are telling you to pull the trigger.
No deal cannot be an option in a second referendum. An exit deal has been negotiated and it may be slightly renegotiated if the British Parliament decides to back some type of divorce deal: something they have so far failed to do. Therefore, Britain should leave with a deal, or not leave at all. Anything else would be crazy. In a second referendum, every voter should vote in favor of the divorce deal, or in favor of EU-membership, while new MEP’s are elected. If the divorce deal wins, Brexit is carried out according to the deal, MEPs are not sent to Brussels and democracy wins. If the people vote against the deal, the UK remains in the EU, MEPs are sent to Brussels and democracy wins. Over 6 million people have signed the most popular citizens initiative in the country’s history, which calls for the canceling of Brexit. Without a new referendum, the government, which did not win over 50% of the popular vote, would take the country out of the EU in a way that has not been approved by the electorate. That would truly undermine democracy.