Have a second-preference vote on the three Brexit options

On Brexit: I think there should be a supplementary vote on the three options: (1) remain. (2) leave under the terms of Theresa May’s negotiated deal. (3) leave with no deal. You’d get a first and second preference. If no option gets more than 50%, the two with the highest count go into a second round. At this stage, anyone who’s first preference is eliminated have their second preference counted.

Up until this week I didn’t believe another vote was justified. People who argue for one, it seems to me, are dismissing the original leave vote as driven by idiots, racists or people who are too stupid to know they’d been duped. These are usually folks rich enough to benefit from Europe, able to visit on a regular basis, with little to no understanding about how many in the UK could never afford that lifestyle. I know, it’s been shown that many of the poorest areas of the country will lose the most from Brexit. But it’s felt like concern about that has been rather disingenuous, and underpinning it has been a distasteful sense that leave voters should never have been trusted with a vote, that “we” know what’s best. (Who’s “we”…? Why do we get to decide when a vote is invalid? Who gave us that power?)

Up until this week, I’d have said it would have been better to leave, see what happened and then, possibly, re-join if it became apparent it was a terrible idea. At least then we would get to see what the reality of Brexit really was, wouldn’t be forever left listening to some of the more fantastical stories of what could have been. Simply overturning the vote – or saying “wrong, vote until you get it right” – felt deeply undemocratic. I don’t think you can believe in democracy only when it serves you.

What’s changed now? The political process. It’s got itself completely wedged in a corner, unable to back out or move forward. There’s almost certainly no way May’s deal will get through Parliament. Once that’s rejected, the only alternatives appear to be remain or crash out with no deal given the EU won’t renegotiate. Either way, an accidental Brexit outcome will permanently damage whatever faith remains in Government (I think that’s a bad thing!) and leave millions deeply angry. At a time when so many countries are sliding into right-wing populism, that would be hugely dangerous.

Putting it back to the people now looks like the only way to get out of that corner. Having all three options on the ballot would take the wind out of the sails of even the most aggrieved. There is a risk that no-deal ends up in a run-off with May’s deal, but the worst likely outcome there – given remainers’ second preference is likely to be May’s deal – shouldn’t be a catastrophe. If the UK genuinely does want no deal, fair enough – we would have voted for what we want, and we’d deserve to get it good and hard.

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