Is a second referendum on Brexit possible? Seven questions that need to be answered

6993988782_6d34cf935a_o.jpgTwo years on from the Brexit vote, the benefits of a second referendum are being hotly debated. In this post, UCL’s Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell identify seven questions that should be considered before parliament decides whether a second Brexit referendum will take place.

Last week a Sky poll suggested that 50% of the public would favour a three-way referendum on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. This follows calls from key figures including Justine GreeningDominic Grieve, and Tony Blair, as well as a campaign launched by The Independent for the public to be allowed a vote on the final deal. Number 10 has categorically rejected these calls, stating that there will be no further referendum on Brexit ‘in any circumstances’. Nonetheless, talk of a second referendum is likely to continue. Whether you are a supporter or an opponent of that proposal, there are some big important questions about the practicalities of such a referendum that need to be explored. This post sets out some of the most crucial questions. In further posts over the coming weeks, we will begin to explore some of the answers.

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The EU cannot give May the deal she wants without risking its own existence

EU flag ronan blog.jpgRonan McCrea argues that the UK Prime Minister does not understand the constraints on negotiations from the EU’s strength and weakness. The White Paper would threaten the fragile balance of the EU politics, making a no-deal scenario a less painful solution in the eyes of the EU leaders. 

When the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, even pessimists would not have predicted that 17 months after the British government triggered Article 50 we would still be waiting for serious negotiations to begin.

Theresa May’s enforced retreat from the moderately serious proposals in her Chequers white paper and her call for the EU “to evolve their position” show that, even at this late stage, the UK authorities still fail to understand the fundamental nature of the Brexit negotiation process.

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Second Thoughts on a Second Brexit Referendum

27240041144_189537893a_oRichard Bellamy discusses the circumstances that would allow for a second referendum to take place. Beyond the difficulties to overcome a potential “betrayal” effect, the design of this new vote would be highly controversial and it does not seem likely that Justine Greening’s system of first and second preferences would make it more legitimate in the eyes of the electorate and politicians.  

Theresa May has announced there will be no second Brexit referendum under any circumstances, prompting the wits of social media to recall her similar assurances regarding a snap election and declare that naturally there will now be one. Trying to divine what the Prime Minister really believes or wants seems a thankless task. However, a reasonable hypothesis is that she considers such a declaration as necessary to stem accusations of betrayal by the hard Brexit wing of her party, especially given some soft Brexiters and even a few Remainers also believe the popular vote for Brexit has to be honoured, and to buttress her authority to negotiate an agreement with the EU on the basis of proposals likely to win Parliamentary support. If so, two questions arise: first, does the accusation of ‘betrayal’ in the event of a second referendum have any foundation at all and second, and probably more importantly, under what political circumstances might she (or any immediate successor) be pushed into granting a second referendum?

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Exposing Populist Disunity in Europe: How the EU could find friends among enemies

European populist movements have been painted with a broad brush, but Jose Feio, Research Associate at LSE Ideas, argues that there’s daylight between them.


With populism on the rise across Europe, there is a tendency to treat the various insurgent parties and movements as equivalents. Politicians such as Guy Verhofstadt and Emmanuel Macron regularly talk about a “war” against populists and talk about these parties as if they were all cut from the same cloth. “You know the friends and allies of Mrs Le Pen”, Macron observed during the 2017 French presidential election, “these are the regimes of Orban, Kaczynski and Putin”.

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The Impact of Brexit on the NHS: Cure or Disease?

Brexit will have a significant impact on the NHS across multiple domains. Here, Marianthi Pappa, Researcher at the University of Aberdeen, outlines the impact of Brexit on the NHS workforce, financial resources for healthcare, public health, medicines and much more. 

The National Health Service (NHS) is one of the UK’s most important institutions. Since its establishment in 1948, it provides healthcare to all citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, regardless of their economic status. It is also one of the country’s largest employers, employing thousands of medical and non-medical staff members. The impact of Brexit on this national pride is still uncertain. For the campaigners in favour of Brexit, the departure from the EU was portrayed as saving the UK £350 million per week, which could be reinvested in the NHS. But as time passes, this argument faded away despite the recent pledge made by the Prime Minister.

An inquiry was commenced by the House of Commons Health Committee about that issue, but was abruptly disrupted by the general election of June 2017. In its report, the Committee pointed out six areas which are likely to be affected by Brexit: health and social care workforce; reciprocal healthcare coverage and cross-border healthcare; medicines, products medical devices, clinical trials and wider health research; public health, including environmental protections and communicable diseases; resources, including EU agencies, funding programmes, networks and health in overseas aid; and market functioning and trade agreements. Because of its disruption by the 2017 election, the Committee has managed to cover only the first two areas from the above list. This article explains the Committee’s views on the examined topics and sheds some light on the areas which remain unaddressed.

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