The People’s Vote campaign is proposing a referendum

which Remain is guaranteed to win


The objective of the People’s Vote campaign and its supporters is to overturn the result of the 2016 referendum and keep the UK in the EU.  To that end, they are demanding a referendum with a Remain option on the ballot paper.


But what other options do they envisage?  This is crucial in determining whether the ballot is fair (which will be a matter for the Electoral Commission).   According to a BBC report:


“The People's Vote campaign, which wants a referendum on the final Brexit deal, says a choice between Theresa May's deal and remaining in the EU is their preferred choice.”


This was echoed by Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Lib Dems and prominent advocate for a “people’s vote”, on Any Questions on Radio 4 on 15 December 2018 (see here, after 39 minutes).  Pressed by Jonathan Dimbleby in the chair to specify the options he envisaged on the ballot paper, he said:


1.      “Do you wish to adopt the Brexit deal that’s been negotiated by the Government?” 

2.      “Or would you choose to remain within the European Union?”


So, if the People’s Vote campaign get their way, there will be a referendum with the two options:


1.      Leave under Prime Minister May’s Deal

2.      Remain


You don’t need to be an expert in psephology to work out that Remain will win that contest easily, for the simple reason that a large number of Brexiteers are opposed to the Prime Minister’s Deal and would never vote for it.


If such a referendum did take place, the net effect would be to overturn the result of the June 2016 referendum by holding a second referendum that Remain would inevitably win.  Some people, particularly those who voted Leave in June 2016, might consider that unfair and get very, very angry about it.


It is important to note that the referendum being proposed by the People’s Vote campaign is NOT a re-run of the June 2016 referendum in which there were two unambiguous options:


1.      Leave

2.      Remain


that is, with a Leave option that everybody who favoured the UK leaving the EU could choose without reservation.



A referendum to choose Brexit option?


Interest in holding another referendum has increased because of the difficulty getting a majority in the House of Commons for a particular Brexit option.  Of course, it is possible to resolve this difficulty by referendum without re-opening the issue of the UK’s membership of the EU – by the clever device of not having a Remain option on the ballot paper.


For example:


(a)    An Accept/Reject referendum on the Prime Minister’s Deal, or

(b)    A referendum allowing people to choose between the two available Brexit options the Prime Minister’s Deal and No Deal


Both of these would respect the result of the 2016 referendum.  Under (a) the matter would remain unresolved if voters reject Prime Minister’s Deal.  (b) has the advantage of resolving the matter, probably in favour of the Prime Minister’s Deal, since Remainers would vote overwhelmingly for it.



Note on the People’s Vote campaign


The People’s Vote campaign has sought support from the public on the basis of a petition, in which they say:


“If the Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament, then we, the people of Britain, should have the democratic right to determine our own future. That is why we are demanding a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.”


And in their “arguments for” a People’s Vote, they say:


Why we need a People’s Vote on a final Brexit deal

We are campaigning for the people to be given their democratic right of a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.

Brexit is a big deal, but it is not a done deal and no deal, or bad deal, it is the people who must decide.

The People’s Vote is not about re-fighting the referendum of 2016.


Reading this, you could be forgiven for thinking that People’s Vote campaign accept the result of the 2016 referendum and that their objective is merely to have a referendum (such as (a) above) to ascertain whether the Brexit deal agreed with the EU is acceptable to the people of the UK.  There is no mention there that they want a Remain option on the ballot paper.



David Morrison

17 December 2018