How to break the Brexit deadlock

Students have invited Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and Femi Oluwole, chief spokesman of Our Future, to address them.

This will come as an absolute shock to literally nobody, but Parliament seems to be having a bit of a struggle with Brexit.

There isn’t a majority for any course of action, but it’s worse than that. It’s not just that people don’t agree. It’s that MPs are completely entrenched, holed up and snarling at anyone who comes near brandishing an alternative opinion.

Jeremy Corbyn, at the time of writing, has refused to enter cross-party talks unless Theresa May takes a hard Brexit off the table.

Why should she? The voters and MPs who believe that’s best for Britain deserve to have their voices heard – and I say that as an arch remainer.

With an issue as polarising as Brexit it’s inevitable that whatever the final outcome, a huge wedge of the population is going to be pretty damn narked.

If we don’t start recognising that those who we fundamentally disagree with have a right to think something different, then we might as well build a wall down the middle of the country and put remainers on one side, leavers on the other, and agree never to speak again.

So how do you bring half the country along when the outcomes are so diametrically opposed?

The answer is obvious. We must have a second referendum.

“A-ha!” say all the leavers. But we already had one! You lost! Get over it!

This is the point where leavers must recognise that the 16.1 million people who voted remain are still valid members of society and entitled to play a part in deciding what our county does next.

The government agreed that there could only be a second referendum on Scottish independence if there was a material difference in circumstances between now and the last one.

Remainers have every reason to argue that this is the case with the EU vote. Leavers might not agree, but right at the core of the leave argument was the promise that we could negotiate a better trade deal with the EU once we were out.

The deal was negotiated and roundly binned by Parliament. Any court of law would see that as a material change in circumstances.

On the flip side, leave voters were promised that a vote to leave meant a vote to leave the single market, the customs union (points if you know the difference without looking it up!), and an end to freedom of movement.

It seems churlish of Jeremy Corbyn to tell people with legitimate concerns about the way the EU operates, that their views are no longer welcome in a conversation about our great nation’s future.

Green MP Caroline Lucas suggested widening out the decision-making process to a citizen’s assembly, a process whereby 99 members of the public are selected as if for jury service, presented with evidence and testimonials, then called to vote.

Sadly, it’s almost inevitable that the losing side would claim bias. And if you can’t get people to have faith in the outcome, what’s the point?

Which brings us back to the second referendum.

It effectively comes down to this. Whether you want a hard Brexit or to remain in the EU, a referendum is only one way to avoid a murky compromise that nobody really wants.

Is it a perfect solution? No not really. Clearly, we can’t keep having referenda forever.

But neither can we end up locked in a deeply damaging impasse which is hurting us economically, socially, and reputationally on the world stage.

It’s time to start respecting those who think differently. We need to put the past behind us and collectively look to the future. In the immortal words of Malcolm Tucker, seeing Theresa May’s attempts to tackle Brexit is like watching a clown run across a minefield, so if we ever want to move on, a People’s Vote is the only way.

And then finally, just maybe, we can shut up and stop talking about it.


  1. “No deal” was ruled out on 10 April 1998 when the UK signed the Good Friday Agreement. Corbyn is merely demanding that May commits to honouring those international treaties and obligations that we are not withdrawing from. If that requires a softer Brexit than many Brexiters would like, they should have though of that and come up with an alternative plan three years ago.

  2. Well, I suspect that unlike many I have actually read the Good Friday Agreement and I can’t see anything there that has anything specifically to do with the Brexit issue, perhaps Mike could point out precisely where it deals with it?

    Alex suggest that we actually have a re-run of the original referendum, with a binary choice of in or out rather than what many Remainers seem to want which is a referendum that involves staying in or Mrs May’s deal, or even a series of options, In/Out/May/Customs Union ….. none of which would obtain an overall majority.

    As a Leaver I voted out in order that I could elect the people who run our country and if I didn’t like them I could vote differently, you can’t do that with Europe. I expected there would be some short term economic pain but long tem economic gain, unquantifiable at this stage I agree, but worth the risk. Whatever individual issues Leavers had in mind they all came under that overarching idea that we should take back control of our country from the undemocratic bureaucrats of Brussels, and the way Brussels has treated us since the referendum reinforces that idea.

    A second referendum simply reinforces the idea that the great and the good, the people who “run” the country think that the Leavers were a bunch of idiots who didn’t know what they were doing and will now see how wrong they were and vote differently; that simply reinforces an “us and them” mentality and frankly smacks of arrogance on the part of those suggesting it …. sorry Alex.

  3. I think the Remainers should follow their own advice “to start respecting those who think differently” and stop talking about “the People’s vote”. People’s vote already happened and they should recognise it and stop undermining the referendum results.


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