Why I Support A Second Referendum

A response to the first referendum and hopes for a second from Francis Lovering, a concerned Portsmouth resident and European.

The recent referendum has left more people distressed than the aftermath of any general election or political process I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. My children and many of my friends, including many who come from another EU nation, were first upset by the result and now are increasingly worried – and rightly.

The nation is divided as never before and the divisions are becoming ever more visible by the day.

When the Tory government announced the terms of the EU referendum, I was worried because I believe such a big constitutional change requires absolute certainty. I was deeply concerned about the principle of deciding the nation’s fate on the basis of a single referendum.

Britain does not have a single constitution but an unwritten one formed of Acts of Parliament, court judgments and conventions. Brexit has a major effect on these and for that reason represents a major constitutional change.

A referendum for a decision of this magnitude seemed problematic to me from the start.

I was also concerned that this referendum was one of ‘taxation without representation’ – with many UK nationals who pay taxes unable to vote at all, including the EU spouses of UK nationals, many of whom have lived in the UK for decades. The inability of 16-17 year olds to vote in a referendum that will arguably affect them more than the rest of us was also problematic to me.

Beyond who could vote, the implications of this vote seem to me more profound and long-lasting than in a ‘normal’ election. In any general election the winner is only there for a term. The outcome does not result in a huge exercise in law making and an irreversible decision that could devastate our economy, even if, as some believe, only in the short term.

But even if one accepts that the referendum was the appropriate mechanism by which to make a decision on our membership in the EU, the outcome that should have been required was surely a very clear majority. Countries like Germany, for example, require a majority of two thirds.

By contrast, the narrow margin of the EU referendum has left a literally divided nation in its wake, unsurprisingly, when one considers the divisiveness and deception of the overall campaign.

The Leave campaign was repeatedly attacked for its controversial tactics, including spreading misinformation on how much membership of the EU costs, for example, or on the likelihood of invading Turks. Our own MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt, insisted that a Remain vote would see terrorists and Turks on our doorsteps overnight, causing the Prime Minister to describe her comments as ‘absolutely wrong’, and others to accuse her of ‘plain and simple lying.’

What these controversies concealed was that the sheer complexity of the question of our continuing membership of the EU requires a huge amount of study to even vaguely understand. Coming to an informed conclusion would always have been hard work, but it was made more so by the negativity of the Remain campaign and the increasingly apparent dishonesty of the Leave campaign. I spent many hours looking into Brexit claims, most of which turned out to be false.

So here we are, post-referendum, and the nation finds itself with no plan. The main protagonists who promoted Leave are all gone and we now face an indeterminate period of uncertainty before we truly find out what Brexit will and won’t deliver – on trade, immigration or our sovereignty.

This is why I support the current calls for a second referendum – a “confirm we’re sure” referendum at the last possible moment, before we shut the door. Few MPs support the idea of a second referendum, and the government recently rejected a petition from over 4.1 million signatories calling for one.

But if the government decided to implement a second referendum, a general election campaign could then follow to decide who we want to implement the decision.

In the meantime, the Brexit investigatory process can continue, so that by the time we have a second referendum, we all have a clearer understanding – unlike the first time – of what the decision really means.

Image by Sarah Cheverton.


  1. I had a clear understanding of what “Leave” meant, and voted “Leave”. There does seem to be a feeling among some (Remain-eers I call them, if the rest of us are Brexiteers) that 52% of the population voted the way they did but didn’t really understand what they were doing, yet the 48% were all remarkably well-informed people. It’s patronising in the extreme. There’d be no calls for a “confirm we’re sure” referendum had Remain won, I know that much. We voted Leave. We should do just that.

    • Unfortunately, the Leave campaigners are reaping what they sowed in the referendum. They repeatedly lied about the money that was being spent in the EU, the money that would be available after we left, the chances we have of reducing immigration, whether immigration has a net benefit to the country, the list goes on and on. The Leave campaign relied on an instinctive distrust of foreigners to further its ends, and has led to a spike in racism. This confirms Remainers’ suspicion that a large swathe of the Leave side voted out while being either misinformed or had had their prejudices against foreigners whipped up by the likes of the obsessive Farage. Meanwhile, those who were leading the campaign dismissed rational argument, dismissed expert opinion, and once again appeared to be arguing from a position not of reason, but of prejudice.

      With this background informing Remainers’ perceptions of the Leave campaign, there is a strong sense that there has been an injustice done. The fact is, without justice and a perception of justice being done, democracy just doesn’t work. Because the other side see underhand methods at play and therefore won’t accept the result. That’s why there have been so many calls for regulation of the sorts of lies and propaganda spouted by both sides. There has for a long time been a naive belief that reason will expose lies. But this referendum has shown that is simply no longer true, that democracy has reached so parlous a state that it simply takes a tub-thumping charismatic or two to play to the worst in people, and reason is overturned.

      Actually, Remainers are frightened. This is a shift in the way democracies are run. Without critical thinking and a liberally educated mindset, democracy is on the edge of being overrun by unreason, bigotry and hatred. There are good answers to every one of the points raised by the Leave campaign, but actually, no-one was willing to listen to them – they simply shouted them down with more lies. I, as a Remainer am pretty shocked at how far the Leave campaign politicians were willing to make ad hominem attacks against Remainers and simply lie with barefaced shamelessness. It’s the supposed “British value” a sense of fair play that has been invoked. And it won’t go to sleep because of the very way the Leave side behaved. So, you’re going to have to get used to us being around. You make a slip, and we’ll be there, with “I told you so” at every turn, pushing for a change in direction.

      • Well, you admit yourself that both sides lied, which they did. No question. And many of us who voted Leave were aware that the side we were voting for had told lies. But that didn’t alter the fact that we voted for a myriad of reasons, not the single reason (immigration) that the revisionists are telling us. My Leave vote had virtually nothing to do with immigration.
        Underhand tactics are a feature of every election, regrettably. It’s rather tedious for people among the 48% to object to the result on the basis that lies were told. We know they were, and we knew at the time. It happens all the time. Take David Cameron’s attitude to Turkish EU membership which was in stark contrast to what he actually said when he went to Turkey.
        If the reasons people among the 48% voted the way they did were scrutinised, I’m sure we’d find some gems in there (“I like going to Spain on holiday” or “I like pizza” perhaps). We’d discover that not all of the 48% were highly educated academics, just as not all the 52% are knuckle-scraping morons (as we’ve been portrayed).
        It’s time for the Remainers to get used to the idea that they lost, and stop attacking those who happen to disagree with them for a variety of reasons.

        • “It’s time for the Remainers to get used to… blah blah blah.” Actually, mate, it’s time for the Leavers to get used to the fact that many of us will be standing there as the bad economic results come in, saying “I fucking told you so.” Get used to it. This one isn’t going to heal for a long, long time.

          As for

          • That’s democracy for you. Though there’s no way of ever proving how things would have gone had the vote gone differently, so it’s pretty pointless. And even if the economic results are “bad” and we can say with complete confidence that those results are solely the result of leaving the EU (all of which is highly unlikely) it still wouldn’t bother me because there is more to life than economic prosperity. Democracy, self-determination, controlling your own destiny etc. I sometimes think that there’s a chunk of society who will be happy with anything as long as they’re ok economically. The work of Herbert Marcuse is quite relevant here, should you be interested. In brief, we have become bound to the idea that if we are satisfied as consumers (i.e with material things) then everything else takes second place. We have become unconscious of the things which should have great meaning to us because we think that economic security and prosperity is all that matters. And it’s a falsehood which the Remain camp were particularly fond of. I’m so glad they lost.

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