What’s going on among the more rabid Brexiteers?

Brexit: Leave campaign chief backs second EU referendum, saying it is ‘the only option’

Arron Banks, the co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign, has backed Nigel Farage’s suggestion that there should be a second referendum on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The businessman accused Theresa May’s government of “backsliding” on the issue and said the UK must “act radically now” or it would “sleepwalk into a faux Brexit”.

“The only option now is to go back to the polls and let the people shout from the rooftops their support of a true Brexit,” Mr Banks added.

His comments come after former Ukip leader Mr Farage suggested a second vote would put an end to “whinging and whining” by Remain supporters and “kill” the debate for a generation.


Both Farage and Banks are apparently entertaining the supposition that a second referendum would be even more dramatically agin the EU than the first ill-advised one, where leave won a slender majority. The problem is, polls are suggesting that opinion is shifting away from Brexit now that the reality of the consequences is setting in. Perhaps they think a second blockbuster and mendacious campaign can poison the atmosphere against Europe, that they can energise the xenophobic fascists on the UK hard right to vote in even vaster droves.

I wouldn’t bet my boots they are right.

On the one hand, what would a second referendum accomplish? The first referendum was a sorry mistake. It should never have taken place because decisions like this shouldn’t be made by what is basically a large opinion poll about what people think on the day. Ours is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy, where members of parliament debate, consider, then decide, and they answer to their constituents at the next election. Referendums ought to be either written out of the UK constitution entirely, or require supermajorities to pass, making sure that the decision to change something is one a lot of people can agree on. Is the first poor political choice reversible by a second poor one?

On the other hand, one could argue that as politicians left it in the hands of the polls to make this decision, they should be given a second chance to confirm it. I am not really convinced of this. I’d prefer an election over the issue, force the parties to take a clear stance.

Suppose a second referendum were to vote narrowly to stay in the EU. What would this actually resolve? Sweet Fanny Adams. Would the Tory clown car immediately reverse course? Would May – finally – resign and put us out of her misery? Or would it just introduce more chaos and indecision? This is the problem with referendums. They are a politician’s way out when they are too afraid or powerless to make a decision. It’s what happens when a prime minister feels weak.

Which brings us to the “strong and stable” leadership of Theresa May. She has stated firmly that there will be no second referendum. Given her track record and weakness as a leader, I’d say the odds against one just dropped dramatically.


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