In a seemingly shocking turn of events, Nigel Farage has today voiced tentative support for a second EU referendum. Such ideas have long been the preserve of the liberal establishment; the Tony Blair’s, Nick Clegg’s and Tory Wets of this world; but now it seems as if Mr Brexit himself has come around to the idea.
Maybe, just maybe, we should have a second referendum on EU membership. It would kill off the issue for a generation once and for all. https://t.co/FQxniMi5MA
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) January 11, 2018
Most people on the “leave” side of the argument staunchly oppose a second referendum, for they see it – rightly, it must be said – as an attempt by the liberal establishment to overturn thee June 2016 vote in favour of remaining. In the words of Mr Blair, “people are entitled to change their mind”.
Yet Farage is approaching this from a different perspective. His warming support for a second poll is based on premise that such an event will settle the issue once and for all, and permit no room for the Europhile establishment to persist in their constant moaning and groaning on the topic.
On The Wright Stuff (Channel 5), Nigel Farage put it like this: “What is for certain is that the Cleggs, the Blairs, the Adonises will never, ever, ever give up. They will go on whinging and whining and moaning all the way through this process. So maybe – just maybe – I’m reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum on EU membership.”
And it must be said, he has a point. A second referendum would, in all likelihood, be rejected by the people as a clear example of the establishment flying in the face of democracy, and thus would galvanise existing leave voters to the cause. It would also sway some on-the-fence voters who are perhaps unsure on the issue, but will feel their typically British sense of fair play blighted by the injustice of democracy being overturned.
That said, this is a high risk option. Like any bet, there is the potential for big rewards; preventing the subversion of the Brexit process by the eternally outraged, but there’s also the obvious high risk that the vote doesn’t go our way. The liberal establishment will have learned from their defeat in 2016 and will fully mobilise everything at their disposal in order to get the outcome that they want this time around.
This is, of course, entirely hypothetical, as Theresa May is a weak leader at the helm of an even weaker minority Tory government. The last thing a Prime Minister in such a position will do is pursue any policy or directive that has such a high risk attached. She is playing it safe, and from her point of view the safest option is to proceed with Brexit without a second vote.
Should the unthinkable happen and Jeremy Corbyn becomes Britain’s next Prime Minister at the head of a Labour government, he will similarly wish to avoid defining his premiership with the perennial European question. He and his inner circle are thoroughly preoccupied with economic reform, and in all likelihood see the issue of Brexit and Europe as a distraction to be dealt with as swiftly as possible.
But maybe, just maybe, such a situation will arise, and it could be the answer to settle a lot of outstanding disquiet on the issue of Europe.