Miliband’s Second Referendum idea is Bananas

Here is the hyperlink to an article entitled “Miliband’s second referendum idea’s bananas” which I have just written for the “Comment Central” website which has been shared by “Conservatives for Liberty”, “Get Britain Out”, the “Libertarian Party UK”, “Parliament Street” and 900 others. I have reproduced the text of the article below:

Former Foreign Secretary and former Labour leadership candidate, David Miliband, stated this week that he supports a second EU referendum and that he is trying to persuade MPs to fight for such a vote. Such a proposal is deeply flawed and does not wash with voters. This was shown in the fact that the Liberal Democrats’ (the only party to propose such a vote) vote share fell from 7.9 per cent in the 2015 General Election to just 7.4 per cent in the 2017 General Election. The party failed even to garner the support of the 22 per cent of voters who still think, despite the Brexit vote, that we should remain members of the EU and their tally of just 12 parliamentary seats (only 1.8 per cent of seats) is well short of their 2010 peak of 57 seats. I thought that this poor election result would easily kill off all talk of a second referendum, but obviously not.

Miliband is proposing the same type of referendum that the Liberal Democrats proposed at the General Election whereby we could vote to accept the Government’s Brexit deal or to reject the deal and remain an EU member. There are a number of flaws with this type of vote. Firstly, what happens if there is no Brexit deal and thus nothing to accept or reject? Secondly, such a vote entirely relies on the presumption that it would be legally possible to revoke Article 50. Politicians and lawyers are divided on this issue and the UK Supreme Court and Liz Truss (when she was Justice Secretary) have both said that Article 50 could not be revoked. Even if it were legally possible, it would require the consent of the UK Government and also the unanimous consent of all of the Governments of all of the 27 remaining EU member states. Thirdly, if the British public were to be given a chance to vote for the UK to remain an EU member, there would be no incentive whatsoever for the EU to give us a deal and certainly no incentive for the EU to give us a good free trade agreement (as Conservative Peer Lord Hamilton has pointed out) which is what both voters and the Government want.

I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with a referendum, in about a decade’s time, after we have officially left the EU on whether or not we should re-join the so-called “single market” via the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) even though I would vote “No” in such a referendum. What especially concerns me about Miliband’s proposal is the fact that one of the two options on the ballot paper would be an option to remain members of the EU, thus allowing the possibility of undoing the original referendum result only two years after its announcement.

Offering a second referendum when the first vote apparently gave the “wrong” answer and went against the elite establishment is the sort of thing a dictatorship pretending to be a democracy would do. The establishment would be saying “You’ll have to keep on voting until you produce the only true and wise answer”. Just imagine what undemocratic measures the remoaners in the elite establishment might use to try to ignore or override a second leave vote. Maybe they’d try to blow up the ballot boxes and then fabricate the referendum result as Giuseppe Garibaldi did! Ignoring referenda is the preserve of the undemocratic and corporatist EU and, now that we’ve voted to exit the club, we should leave behind such elitist ways. The EU ignored France’s vote against the EU’s new Constitution (2005), the Netherlands’ vote against the EU’s new Constitution (2005) and Greece’s vote against the Euro bailout (2015). When Denmark voted against the Maastricht Treaty (1992), they were made to vote again. The same happened when the Republic of Ireland voted against the EU’s Nice Treaty (2001) and when they voted against the Lisbon Treaty (2008).

The House of Commons voted to have this referendum in the first place by a margin of six to one (544 votes (83.6 per cent of MPs) to just 53 votes, (8.2 per cent)). Even Tim Farron, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tom Brake MP, the current Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, and Alastair Carmichael MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Chief Whip and spokesperson for Home Affairs, voted to hold this referendum. Parliament confirmed the result of the referendum when it voted to invoke Article 50 by 498 votes (76.6 per cent of MPs) to 114 votes (17.5 per cent) – one of the largest parliamentary majorities in recent years. When Parliament itself votes for a referendum and the people vote to produce an unexpected or unwanted result, Parliament cannot just say “Oh sorry, that was a false start – we’ll have a re-run”. What happens if the second referendum also produces a leave vote? Would it be best of five? The fact is that we *did* know what we were voting for – it was a simple, clear, single, binary choice with an impartial, unbiased question. We voted to leave the EU and to take full, permanent, independent and democratic control of our trade, our laws, our money, our regulations and our borders.

Then there are those who say yes it was clearly a vote to leave the EU but it wasn’t necessarily also a vote to leave the single market. According to the EU’s own treaties, there is no such thing as the “single market” – there is only the “internal market” which just shows that it really is an inherent and intrinsic part of the EU and that, if you leave the EU but don’t also leave its internal market, you haven’t really left the EU. I thus prefer to use the term “internal market” and will only use the term “single market” when quoting others. On television in the referendum campaign the remain campaigners Ruth Davidson, Hillary Benn, Nick Clegg, Sajid Javid, Angela Eagle, Rachel Reeves, George Osborne, Lord Mandelson and David Cameron and the leave campaigners Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, Lord (Nigel) Lawson, Lord (Norman) Lamont, Lord (David) Owen and Nigel Farage and many others made it clear that a vote to leave would mean leaving the EU’s internal market. On YouTube, Channel Brexit has uploaded an excellent 6-minute video of leading remain campaigners and leave campaigners all clearly stating during the referendum campaign that, in the event of a vote to the leave the EU, we would have to leave both the EU and its internal market and that, in the words of remain campaigner Sajid Javid MP, “The Leave campaign have admitted: they would take us out of the single market”. David Cameron mentioned the fact that we would have to leave both the EU and its internal market in the event of a Brexit vote 27 times in his Sky News interview and question session alone. He even said “I keep going on about the single market but it is so important” and that “one of the most important moments of this campaign was when the out campaign said they wanted to leave the single market”.

The then Prime Minister (David Cameron) said on the Andrew Marr Show that the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble had made it clear that upon a vote to leave the EU, the UK would have to leave both the EU and its internal marketSchaeuble also said “If the majority in Britain opt for Brexit, that would be a decision against the single market. In is in. Out is out”. Since the referendum, the President of the European Council has made the same point. He said there is no hard or soft Brexit – either you leave both the EU and its internal market or you don’t leave the EU at all. Jacob Rees-Mogg has pointed out that “within the campaign it was stated very clearly that once we left we would need to negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union. There would have been no need to do that if we remained in the single market”. The House of Commons and the House of Lords both effectively approved a clean Brexit (an exit from the EU, its internal market and its customs union) when they voted in March of this year to invoke Article 50 two months after the Government had laid out its Brexit plans which included leaving the EU, its internal market and its customs union. Only 101 MPs (15.5 per cent of all MPs) voted for Chuka Umunna’s amendment to the Queen’s Speech which would have asked the Government to try and keep up in the “single market”. Less MPs went through the “Aye” [voting] lobby on Umunna’s pro- “single market” than went through the “No” lobby on the Article 50 vote. That is quite an achievement for Umunna!

The 2016 referendum result is the strongest mandate any UK Government has ever been given. More people voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything in the entire history of the United Kingdom. That’s more votes than any party or campaign has ever attained. 17,410,742 people voted to leave the EU – that’s a majority of 1.27 million votes and 9 of the UK’s 12 main geographical regions voted to leave the EU. 401 constituencies voted to leave the EU and 70 per cent of Labour-held constituencies voted to leave the EU. The turnout of 75 per cent was particularly high – the last election with a turnout as high was in 1997. The 2016 referendum turnout was 7.59 per cent higher than the turnout in the 1975 “Common Market” (European Economic Community, EEC) referendum.

We have never had a second referendum or a second election before as it would clearly undermine the will of the people. It would imply that their original verdict was insufficient and that they must keep on voting until they produce the Establishment’s desired result.

Both MPs and particularly UK voters are clearly uniting on Brexit. A YouGov poll from May showed that 68 per cent of voters want the Government to get on with Brexit and that only 22 per cent still think we should stay in the EU (down from 48 per cent in the referendum). Voters are also uniting on the Government’s vision of Brexit – 68 per cent of voters now say that they would opt for a so-called “hard Brexit” (an exit from the EU and its internal market) over a “soft Brexit”.

The only supporters of a second referendum are political opportunists without principles or values who want to stay relevant after losing the referendum. Sir Richard Branson supports such a second vote despite calling the idea of an EU referendum “ridiculous” in 2013 when David Cameron first proposed the vote. Clearly, in his view, the first vote wasn’t quite “ridiculous” enough so we must have another “ridiculous” vote to settle the matter. It seems to me that what Sir Richard really ought to be arguing for is for Parliament to undemocratically vote to revoke Article 50 and thus overrule the will of the British people.

Thank goodness David Miliband is no longer an MP.

 

18 thoughts on “Miliband’s Second Referendum idea is Bananas

    1. Under a democracy the majority rules, unfortunately the majority doesn’t understand all the ramifications of the decision they voted for. This is a major problem in the world today economics. The fair thing for everyone is to leave the eu then vote for return, within a set period of time, this will then create a whole set of problems. Surely there is a way to leave section a and still be part of b section?

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      1. In fact we already had the second referendum. It took place on 23rd June 2016 and the result was to leave. 40 years after the first referendum when we voted to join.

        So give it 40 years after we’ve left, and we’ll see if the EU is in good shape to rejoin if a majority wishes to.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So you do understand all the ramifications? Because you can see the future? As economists have done so brilliantly over the last couple of decades? Remind me about your warnings regarding the economic crisis.

        And the tell us where the Remain campaign told us exactly what the economic ramifications of staying in the EU would be? Because in 5, 10,20 years the EU will not be the same as it is now, and neither will the rest of the world. So whats going to happen if we stay in? Don’t know? Then stop telling us we voted in ignorance, when you did too.

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  1. There never was much hope of a sensible negotiation with the EU, which has to try to satisfy 27 nations competing interests. The simplest and best is to say, “We’re leaving on WTO terms, the door is open once you have an agreed proposal for something else.”

    That way, we leave with no £36billion bill to pay, our system of common law supreme, our fisheries back, and our borders under immediate control.

    Any proposal the EU then comes with cannot assail these fundamental aspects of our sovereignty since we’ve already reclaimed them from the EU quagmire.

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    1. Thanks for commenting.

      A small minority of Brexiteers such as Tim Martin, Sir James Dyson and Lord (Nigel) Lawson think that it won’t be possible to negotiate a full, detailed and comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU by midnight on 29th March 2019 (the end of the two-year window created by the triggering of Article 50 on 29th March 2017). In my article “A quick UK-EU free trade deal is possible” (at: http://commentcentral.co.uk/a-quick-uk-eu-free-trade-deal-is-possible/) I explain the three unique advantages we have with regard to trade negotiations with the EU. These are 100% legal and regulatory equivalence now and on 1st April 2019 (day one after Brexit), having no trade barriers with the EU to negotiate away and already being the EU’s largest single market in the world and the EU’s most important export destination in the world. These three unique advantages should make a FTA with the EU quicker, simpler and more straightforward than most previous bilateral FTAs with the EU. Indeed the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox MP, has said that a UK-EU free trade agreement should be the “easiest in human history”.

      It is clear that politicians in the UK and in the rest of the EU want a FTA with the UK and that they think such a deal is possible in the time frame. No Brexit deal would be very damaging to the EU and its member states, especially with regard to trade as I explain in my article “No Brexit Deal is Better than a Bad Deal ” (https://bensomervellsbrexitblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/no-brexit-deal-is-better-than-a-bad-deal/). Specific remarks from Michel Barnier, the EU’s current Trade Commissioner, the EU’s former Trade Commissioner and Latvia’s Prime Minister clearly show that the EU thinks a deal is desirable and possible within the time frame (please see my article at: http://commentcentral.co.uk/a-quick-uk-eu-free-trade-deal-is-possible/ to read their remarks).

      It may be that a transitional period is needed as an implementation phase and to negotiate some of the finer details of a FTA. However, this phase must not require the continuation of the freedom of movement of people or continued single market/customs union membership. As David Davis has said, “The end state [on 1st April 2019] determines the transition” and so we cannot have an off-the-shelf transitional model. Our transitional arrangements must be bespoke and specifically suited to us.

      I agree with you that the Government are starting to backslide on the Brexit vote with regard to the freedom of movement of people and on transition, particularly with regard to their desire to seek a temporary customs union with the EU during the transitional period. This has got worse since the Tories lost their majority as the crucial line “No Brexit deal is better than a bad deal” is now less widely supported in Parliament. One of the many reasons why I opposed Theresa May’s leadership bid from the start was that she campaigned and voted to remain and was that she strongly supports the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and so I thought that a Government led by her would less likely to efficiently deliver a clean Brexit.

      However, I’m afraid that I must disagree wth you in that I don’t think the solution to this is for us now to walk away from negotiations altogether with no deal at all. The Government should not aim for no deal but it should state that we’ll leave with no deal if the EU were unwise enough to only offer us a punitive deal.

      Leaving now with no deal would lose us the support of remain voters which we’ve just attracted. According to YouGov, 68% of all voters want the Government to get on with Brexit, up from 51.9% in the referendum last year and 68% of all voters think we should leave both the EU and its internal market. Almost all leave voters also want a FTA with the EU. Since the Brexit vote, UKIP have proposed leaving the EU by immediately repealing the European Communities Act, 1972 (the piece of domestic legislation which first took us into the EU’s predecessor) without ever invoking Article 50. This is the main reason why I and many others didn’t vote for UKIP at the General Election. Such a policy would erradicateour legal and regulatory equivalence with the EU (one of our unique significant advantages in trade talks), crush any hope of legal continuity and certainty for businesses and would likely thwart any prospect of FTA with the EU for the foreseeable future.

      Withdrawing from the EU without ever invoking Article 50 would violate European law under the Treaty of Lisbon and international law under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

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      1. Ben, by and large I accept your analysis, and regret the Gerrard Batten line of thought dominating Brexit section of the UKIP 2017 manifesto. Although I’m maybe I’m a bit more of an old school hard nosed negotiator prepared to take more risks. I think that if we did leave on WTO terms, it wouldn’t be very long at all before the EU came to us with a free trade proposal based on the very points you mention about already being in harmonisation with their regulations.

        The point is they’d have to come to us, and so wouldn’t be in a position to demand concessions, fishing rights, bags of gold, or other irrelevant extras.

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      2. All good negotiators take risks – a lot of business and investment involves taking risks. It was a risk to state that “No [Brexit] deal is better than a bad deal” but it was not an unnecesary risk and the Government is and has been preparing for no Brexit deal.

        I agree with your sentiment about wanting to leave as soon as possible and wanting to capitalise on all of the great advantages of Brexit in terms of trade, regulations, money, laws and borders as soon as possible.

        I also agree – we definitely couldn’t make any concessions as there’d be no negotiation if we just immediately left which is currently attractive with the talk of a temporary customs union, etc… However, for me, this is actually a reason to completely stick to our negotiating red lines and insist that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

        I’m afraid I’m not sure if I agree with the following (which you said in your comment) “if we did leave on WTO terms it wouldn’t be very long at all before the EU came to use with a free trade proposal based on the very points […] about already being in harmonisation”. This is for two reasons:
        1) If we were to suddenly leave the EU now without first passing the Great Repeal Bill, we would not have legal or regulatory equivalence as most EU laws and regulations specifically relates or refers to the EU and/or its connected regulatory bodies, etc… which we will no longer be members of. These laws and regulations will, therefore, no longer apply in the UK and we would lose our equivalence. Leaving without passing the Great Repeal Bill would leave us with a uncertain legal blackhole and would, as even the current Brexit Minister, former Chair of “Conservative for Britain” (Brexit campaign group within the Tory Party), Brexit campaigner and voter, Steve Baker MP, has said leave us with “a hole in the statute book”. The Great Repeal Bill is all about “certainty, continuity and control” (Baker) needs to be passed to ensure that our UK statute book is both complete and workable after Brexit. 59% of all of our laws originated from the EU in the first place and all of those laws, if piled up would be equal to the height of Nelson’s Column. “There are believed to be 12,000 EU regulations (one type of EU law) in force [in the UK], while Parliament has passed 7,900 statutory instruments implementing EU legislation and 186 acts which incorporate a degree of EU influence” (BBC News). The total body of European law was, in 2010, estimated to consist of about 80,000 items (BBC News). This will be Parliament largest ever legal challenge and will take at least a year and it is vital that this challenge is completed in time for Brexit. The Government has estimated that it will need to use 800 to 1,000 statutory instruments just to get the statute book ready.
        2) When he went before the European Scrutiny Committee just after his dismissal, Sir Ivan Rodgers rightly, in my view at least, said that the EU would not, in the foreseeable future at least, give us a free trade deal if we were to suddenly leave the EU now with no deal. They could see it as us rudely snubbing them and stating that we don’t need them and that we don’t care about their interests or those of their member states and thus wouldn’t take kindly to such a move. They may then hold a long-term grudge and refuse to give us a free trade deal.
        3) This negotiation is not just about trade. There needs to be negotiation around possible continuation of European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), aviation (the Open Skies Agreement), etc… There are also important so-called “divorce issues” such as the rights of UK nationals living in the EU and those of EU nationals living in the UK, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the so-called Brexit “divorce bill”.

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  2. If the EU applied any tariffs at all to UK goods after Brexit, (how) would such tariffs be applied at the Northern Ireland-Irish Republic border, i.e. incoming to the EU?

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    1. In the highly unlikely scenario of no Brexit deal at all, tariffs would indeed be applied to all UK exports to the EU regardless of which border they cross and regardless of which of the four constituent nations of the UK (Northern Ireland, Scotland, England or Wales) they are being exported from.

      If there were no deal, tariffs would also be applied to all EU imports to the UK, regardless of which border they cross into the UK and regardless of the exact final export destination within the UK.

      It’s worth remembering that customs checks are already carried out on the border between Northern Ireland (one of the four constituent nations of the UK which will, after Brexit, be outside of the EU) and the Republic of Ireland (an EU member state) but they are currently carried out very lightly.

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    2. There has been a Common Travel Area between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland since 1923 (way before the EU’s free movement policy began in 1992) and checks have been carried out as lightly as possible since then. The question then becomes how can we end free movement when there is a soft border between an EU member state (the Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland (a constituent nation of the non-EU UK). The Conservative MEP, leave campaigner and author, Dan Hannan, wrote an excellent article on this very question here: https://www.conservativehome.com/thecolumnists/2016/09/daniel-hannan-my-one-worry-about-brexit-that-if-we-mess-things-up-we-could-harm-relations-with-ireland.html

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  3. Re ‘The question then becomes how can we end free movement when there is a soft border between an EU member state (the Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland (a constituent nation of the non-EU UK).’

    That’s the UK question as it were, but won’t the EU have a similar problem? Whatever policy it applies to NI / RoI border crossings, it has to apply equally everywhere else in the EU where British goods or travellers arrive – in theory at least, unless it specifically agrees to make Ireland a special case.

    At the moment the UK seems to be saying to the EU: we don’t need any new Irish border rules, but if you do, they will be your rules.

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    1. Thanks for your reply comment. I think the EU may well make Ireland a special case as they very strongly supported the peace process. We controlled immigration from both the rest of Europe and the rest of the world very well from 1923 (when the Common Travel Area began) to 1992 when the Maastricht Treaty (which introduced the freedom of movement of people between the EU and the UK) was ratified. This just shows that the complexity is caused by the EU’s freedom of movement policy which the Republic of Ireland to have to have but which Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will no longer have.

      If you haven’t yet read Hannan’s article in full, I’d strongly recommend it.

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