I’ll start by saying that if was simply up to me, I’d keep Britain in the EU. I was a Remainer before the referendum result, and nothing has convinced me since that leaving the EU would make the country better off. However, I also remain against the idea of a second referendum on the question. Here’s why.
First off, the campaign be would much, much nastier than the first one, and given that one featured Nigel Farage in front of a billboard containing refugees that had a caption that read “Breaking Point”, that is truly saying something. Having been through the last year and a half and counting since the referendum result, Remain and Leave, which were nominal positions before 2016 amongst most normal people, have hardened into the sides of an all-out culture war. I think all that exploding out into a winner takes all situation would be extremely harmful to the British body politic, which is already suffering badly anyhow.
Secondly, whatever side won, we’d be in a world of trouble. If Remain won, it would feel to many people like an establishment stitch up, a case of asking the question again and again until the public gives you the right answer. As a result, anti-establishment might rage out of control. Farage often likes to say that if Brexit isn’t enacted in some definitive way the masses will riot. I think he is overestimating people’s attachment to the specifics of Brexit a great deal, but I can imagine real trouble if Remain won a second referendum, unfortunately. Particularly as a certain section of Remainers would be unbearably smug about this victory – and another would start talking about how a victory for Remain was a victory for European federalism coming to the UK. The vote to Remain was a vote to join the Euro, didn’t you know? Imagine how much that will help an already bad situation.
If Leave won, that would be taken as a mandate for the hardest Brexit imaginable. In fact, it would be totally unavoidable after a second Leave win, no matter how little logical sense it made. Therefore, I cannot see any good that can come from a second EU referendum. Perhaps time will prove me wrong on this one. If we do end up with a second referendum, I really hope that I am.
I know how you are feeling out there Remainers. You feel like the country is drifting in a direction you don’t like and you want to do anything you can to stop it. You want to erase the last nineteen months of politics in this country. I get it, I really do. But a second referendum isn’t going to fix that. It would probably make it all very much worse.