While most of the political world is engaged in the culture war around Brexit, I like to have fun thinking of all the possible constitutional and other assorted crises it might throw up. I thought of one last night that has to do with a possible second referendum scenario.
Whatever anyone tells you, Theresa May seems to be aiming for the softest possible Brexit imaginable. Whatever big talk there is from her and the Brexity end of the cabinet every once in a while, this has been signified with every step of the negotiations. The idea that the Commission is going to box her further into a corner on the Irish border and then she’s going to turn around and shout “no deal then!” and walk away strikes me as deeply ludicrous. As a result of this, for the sake of the scenario I’m about to paint, imagine that the final Brexit deal is Norway Plus and that for whatever reason the ERG types swallow this for the sake of, you know, not ripping apart the Conservative Party and handing the keys to Number 10 to Mr Corbyn.
Let us also say that we manage to get a second referendum – but the two choices on offer are take the deal or no deal at all. In other words, there is no “stay in” option presented, just May’s way or the Rees-Mogg way. My question here is, what do Remainers do then? Either direction makes for horrible choices. It could be argued they should campaign for May’s deal, since it is the soft Brexit most of them have been arguing for since June 2016 and is objectively better than no deal. Yet you could also argue that a vote for no deal makes Brexit weirdly less likely, or at least represents one last throw of the dice, as a constitutional crisis might arise when it looks like we are about the crash out of the EU with no preparation whatsoever and possible depression looms. I myself really don’t know which option Remainers should go for, were this scenario to arise. But someone might want to start thinking about it seriously.
Hopefully, this all never arises. But it’s funny how many weird, previously unthinkable scenarios Brexit presents. I still think there might be a twist in the tail – equally, I could easily also imagine May gets Norway Plus, parliament votes to accept it and then that’s the end of the whole discussion except amongst a reasonably small group of Remainer hardcores.