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International Relations
Theresa May’s Brexit deal contains little to please brexiteers or remainers. Should the government go back to the people for a second referendum on Brexit?


Arguments supporting this position



Following difficult negotiations with Brussels, Theresa May has secured a deal with the EU over the terms of Britain’s exit. However, this deal does not address the core concerns that prompted many to vote to leave the European Union. [1]

The Argument

When people voted on the Brexit issue, it was unclear on what the final deal would look like. Many of the Vote Leave campaign’s slogans were centred on tighter controls on immigration, the freedom to negotiate new trade deals with the rest of the world, and freedom from European legislation. However, in practice, the UK’s divorce from Europe has been far more complicated. If Britain wants to keep an open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, it will be forced to remain in the customs union in some capacity. This means Britain will not have total freedom and autonomy over its laws. It will have to continue to abide by European legislation if it wants to avoid the introduction of costly tariffs and a hard border in Northern Ireland. [2] May’s deal doesn’t even deliver control over British borders, a key promise of the Vote Leave campaign and core belief held among Brexit voters. Under the deal negotiated with the EU, Britain will be forced to accept the EU’s free movement of people rules during a transitionary period.[3] The only alternative is to leave the EU without a deal. This would mean the immediate reintroduction of high trade tariffs, prompting price hikes on European products, and possibly creating a food and medicine shortage in the UK. Faced with two options; a Brexit deal which does not address voters key issues, or no deal at all, many voters may prefer to stay in the European Union. The original vote only offered a binary choice. But the realities of Brexit have revealed it is not a binary in/out decision. UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union is far more complex than voters were led to believe.[4] Therefore, it is only right that we hold another referendum now that the British public knows exactly what it is voting for and all the options are on the table. The referendum should include the option of a no-deal Brexit, Brexit under the terms of Theresa May’s deal, and no Brexit at all.[1] At the very least, now we are aware of the terms of the Brexit, a second referendum is required to determine whether the public wants a hard or soft Brexit, and what aspects of leaving the EU are most desirable.

Counter arguments

A second referendum would undermine British democracy. It would send a message to the British people that a majority vote is not enough weight to provide legitimacy and certainty to decisions. It might give a more accurate understanding of what people want regarding Brexit, but it would undermine all future political elections, further foster divisions and strip any future government of political legitimacy.[4] It would set a precedent that once the original conditions for a vote changed, the people should have a chance to vote again. If this is applied to the future political landscape, it would mean more regular public votes and breakdown of democracy. Supposing the people vote for Brexit again, if the EU rejects one aspect of the divorce deal, will we have to have a third vote? Or a fourth? Where would it end?


The original vote did not reflect the reality of Brexit. It reduced Brexit to a binary in/out decision, but the realities were more complex. Now people know what the terms of Brexit look like, they should have the final say.

Rejecting the premises

Britain is a democracy. The people already voted. They voted out. Now the government must deliver what they asked for.




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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 11 Dec 2018 at 20:47 UTC