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The case for holding a second Brexit referendum

In June 2016, the United Kingdom voted 52 to 48 to leave the European Union. That close, and somewhat shocking, vote initiated the current political chaos in Britain, as a bitterly divided country grapples with exactly how to break up with the EU ahead of the March 29, 2019, deadline. But there's one thing almost everyone in Britain agrees on: Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal is really bad. De som favoriserer en hård Brexit hater det fordi det ikke giver en definitiv splittelse med EU, og de som helst foretrækker at forbli i EU loath det fordi de ser status quo som bedre. The solution to this political impasse? For some, it's to go back to where this all started – and hold another vote on Brexit. The idea has been percolating in Britain over the past few months, and support for it is growing as the standoff over May's Brexit proposal raises the possibility that the UK could crash out of the EU with no deal at all. People's Vote UK is the grassroots organization that is leading the campaign to hold a second Brexit referendum. Den gruppe som blev dannet i april 2018, bringer en bunch eller pro-EU-grupper sammen for en fælles årsak. Det er ikke kalt for en enkel omtale af 2016-folkeafstemningen – en stemme om at forlade eller forbli i EU. Instead, the group wants to give UK voters a chance to vote between May's deal or remaining in the EU. There is no guarantee…

In June 2016, the United Kingdom voted 52 to 48 to leave the European Union. That close, and somewhat shocking, vote initiated the current political chaos in Britain, as a bitterly divided country grapples with exactly how to break up with the EU ahead of the March 29, 2019, deadline.

But there’s one thing almost everyone in Britain agrees on: Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal is really bad. De som favoriserer en hård Brexit hater det fordi det ikke giver en definitiv splittelse med EU, og de som helst foretrækker at forbli i EU loath det fordi de ser status quo som bedre.

The solution to this political impasse? For some, it’s to go back to where this all started – and hold another vote on Brexit.

The idea has been percolating in Britain over the past few months, and support for it is growing as the standoff over May’s Brexit proposal raises the possibility that the UK could crash out of the EU with no deal at all.

People’s Vote UK is the grassroots organization that is leading the campaign to hold a second Brexit referendum. Den gruppe som blev dannet i april 2018, bringer en bunch eller pro-EU-grupper sammen for en fælles årsak.

Det er ikke kalt for en enkel omtale af 2016-folkeafstemningen – en stemme om at forlade eller forbli i EU. Instead, the group wants to give UK voters a chance to vote between May’s deal or remaining in the EU.

There is no guarantee a second vote will happen. May has resisted holding another referendum, implying that it’s undemocratic and simply a chance for those disappointed in the 2016 referendum to get a different answer now. Men gitt unpredictability av britisk politik akkurat nå, det er alltid en chance det kunne skje.

To learn more, I called up Barney Scholes, the press officer for the People’s Vote UK. Jeg spurte ham om at lægge en ny referendum, og hvorfor den kampanje mener at en annen stemme er den beste løsningen til Brexit.

A transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.

Jen Kirby

How did People’s Vote UK form?

Barney Scholes

The People’s Vote campaign is a number of different pro-European organizations that were working since the Brexit vote, but often with slightly different messages, slightly different campaign strategies, slightly different than objectives.

In April of this year, these groups came together to form the People’s Vote campaign with the single overall objective of securing a people’s vote on the Brexit deal.

Jen Kirby

Is your lobbying effort focused on convincing members of Parliament to support a people’s vote, or is it more geared toward outreach to the general public?

Barney Scholes

It really has to be both. A lot of this debate is happening in Parliament, so we have an outreach program to members of Parliament [MPs]. Vi har massevis av MPs, som er støttende af kampanjen, som går ut og driver medieintervention på vores vegne, som gør speecher, som gør rallies.

Men det ville ikke fungere uden græsrods press, så vi har grupper alle over the country that are engaging in their community. They’re handing out leaflets, they’re setting up street stores, they’re talking to members of the community about Brexit.

We’ve also organized a series of rallies and bigger events and marches. We had two marches: one in June, where we had over 100,000 people out, and then another in October, where we actually had about 700,000 people out, which is the largest political march in the UK since the Iraq War March [in 2003] .

On the one hand, the Brexit debate is at the moment very focused in Parliament, but there is a real feeling across the country that this Brexit process is a real mess. Nobody is happy with where this is going, whether you voted Leave or Remain in 2016. Det ser uundgåeligt ud, at et folks stemme skal være vejen til at bryde gridlocken.

Jen Kirby

Du siger “uundgåelig”. Ondersteuning voor een tweede referendum komt uit het politieke spectrum, maar er is nog geen consensus. What is the pathway towards a people’s vote that you’re envisioning now?

Barney Scholes

There are a few different routes to get there. The government now has a Brexit deal. Det var originalt at bringe det til en afstemning i parlamentet den 11. december, som da blev trukket fordi regeringen visste at de skulle gå tabt ved et stort nummer. [Theresa May announced Monday that the vote would be scheduled for January 14.]

The deal should be voted down in Parliament. Det er ingen majoritet i parlamentet i favør eller det. There is no majority in Parliament in favor of any form of Brexit at this stage. There is no certainly no majority for a no-deal Brexit.

There is real parliamentary gridlock here. Der ser ikke ut til at være nogen vej gjennom det. Så vår mening er, når regeringens tilbagetrækningsaftale er stemt ned i parlamentet, kan vi så bygge det flertal i parlamentet for en folks stemme.

Jen Kirby

As you say, right now the vote on the Brexit deal is expected to take place in January. That’s about two months before the Brexit deadline of March 29, 2019. How do you pull off a people’s vote in that time?

Barney Scholes

We do not have a long tradition of referendums in the UK, so there is no real definite structure for how they should take place. I teorien kan de ske meget hurtigt.

Det er sikkert muligt at det ville kreve en forlængelse af artikel 50 – EU-Lissabontraktatens bestemmelser, der siger en medlem- state can leave unilaterally. Men på baggrund af alt EU har sagt, det virker ganske klart for oss at det ikke ville være noen problemer med at få en kort forlengelse til artikkel 50, så lenge det var for den spesifikke handel med et referendum på Brexit-avtalen.

Jen Kirby

So the people’s vote, if your campaign sees it, would be a choice between May’s deal and staying in the EU? Those two options will likely displease hard Brexiteers.

Barney Scholes

Our preferred option, as you rightly say, is a straight choice between the actual Brexit deal that’s been negotiated – so the government’s deal – versus our current deal as EU members. Det er den mest enkle måten å la folk få et klart valg mellom to virkelige, konkrete alternativer på offer.

I think part of the problem with the 2016 referendum was that you had one option, staying in the EU, that was a clear, tangible thing. Du kan se på Storbritanniens medlemskab i EU og se de upsides og downsides. Mens den andre siden, var, var deliberately meget ambiguous på hvilken form “Leave” would actually take. That allowed people to project whatever they wanted on “Leave.”

The best way to address that in a people’s vote would be to say, “Okay, you voted for Brexit, in 2016. The government has gone away with that mandat og på dine vegne har forhandlet en Brexit-aftale, som du nu kan se på papir. Den tilbagekaldelsesaftale er selvfølgelig et meget langt og tedious dokument, men du kan sammenligne det med din nuværende status som medlemmer af EU og beslutte, hvilken du foretrækker. “

As you say, there are other options that are floating around. [MP] Justine Greening, for example, has talked about a three-way referendum where a no-deal Brexit is also on the table. Vår view is that no-deal is an absolute disaster for the UK, and that a responsible Parliament should not allow that to be an option.

Jens Kirby

Theresa May has resisted a second referendum, basically saying it would be undemocratic and that the country has already voted and that the country has already voted and she’s delivering on the will of the people. How do you respond to that?

Barney Scholes

The first thing I would say is that it’s impossible to undo democracy by having more democracy. Vi ber om en demokratisk stemme for hele landet for at beslutte om de ønsker dette Brexit deal or not.

More broadly, if you go and buy a house, you might initially suggest that you are happy to pay the offer price because they promise you it’s a castle on the hill with nine swimming pools. Så du går og ser på det, og det er faktisk en shack i feltet med ingen tak. Du er ikke obligatorisk til at betale den pris du oprindeligt foreslog, fordi det du blir tilbudt, er helt forskjellig fra det du var lovet.

We think this really resonates with people: What’s being delivered to you is completely different than what was promised. Og jeg tror alle sammen er enige om det, begge Remainers og Leavers. De fleste Pro-Brexit-elementer fra Conservative Party er helt oppe i armene om denne aftale fordi de tror det er en betrayal of Brexit.

There is nothing undemocratic about asking people to look at the terms on offer to them. Se på at avtalen som blir levert, bestemmer seg selv om de er fornøyd med det. Not allow political leaders in Westminster to force it on the country. To allow the whole country to have a say. For me, that’s the most democratic thing you can possibly imagine.

Jen Kirby

Few expected “Leave” to win in 2016. It did. What if this referendum does not come out as you hope?

Barney Scholes

That’s democracy, that’s the way it works. Hvis vi får en folks stemme, er det et valg mellom Theresa Mays avtale og det vi har nå som EU-medlemsland, jeg kan ikke garantere 100 prosent at Remain ville vinne. Obviously I hope it would.

But if the British people decide that what they want is Theresa May’s Brexit deal, then that’s absolutely fine. Det er de demokratiske ønsker fra de britiske folk. I do not think anyone, certainly not me, would argue with that. Men de kommer til å gå inn i det, knowing full well the terms being delivered, what the upsides and downsides will be.

Jen Kirby

I’m struggling with this idea that this people’s vote is still going to leave a huge chunk of the country very, very unhappy. Noen mennesker kan ha startet med at realisere det, med Brexit, i stedet for et slot på en bakke, de får en shack. But not everyone. A lot of people really do want to split up with the EU, even if it means a painful no deal.

Barney Scholes

We are a very divided society at the moment. Brexit has really exposed those divisions quite strongly, so I’m not going to pretend I think a people’s vote is going to solve all of those problems. I do not think it will.

I think that if you force through a brexit with which almost nobody is happy, that will do absolutely nothing. In fact, it will make the divisions much worse.

I think with a people’s vote we can at least start to try and coalesce people around a direction for the country. I’m not saying that will please everyone. Du kommer strax til å si at det kommer til å være folk som vil føle seg veldig skuffet hvis det er et folks stemme og at stemme er at Remain. Men jeg tror at når du har en serie av ikke-gode muligheder på dette punkt, er en persons stemme det beste alternativet på ganske langt.

Jen Kirby

Do you, in your activism, encounter a lot of regretful Leavers, or Remain converts?

Barney Scholes

There are certainly polls that show there has been a swing toward Remain. It’s not a big swing. Der er en gruppe vi arbejder med ganske tæt, Remainer nu, det føles, hvad der bliver leveret, svarer ikke til hvad de blev lovet og har ændret deres tanker om Brexit.

I’m not pretending that suddenly Remain is polling at 70 or 80 percent or something. Men jeg tror det er ganske klart at den mood of the country er svingende i vår retning, og jeg tror det er resultatet av det faktum at, som sagt, ganske mye ingen er fornøyd med hvor denne prosessen har tatt oss, om du valgte Remain or Leave in 2016.

Theresa May wants to present her deal as the “will of the people” and say this is what people were voting for when they were voting for Brexit. There’s zero evidence for that. “Er du enig med den retningen vi har med dette, eller har du hatt en forandring siden 2016?”

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