Neverendum? Why A Second EU Referendum Would Be Disastrous For British Politics

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Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

Is anybody else getting fed up with Brexit? It has been over two years since the British public took the decision to leave the European Union, and yet we seem no closer to achieving it.

Day after day our online platforms and local media stations are saturated with endless updates regarding failed negotiations, conservative infighting and arguments over what part the EU will play in our future. However, despite the intolerable messiness surrounding it all, it is far too late to throw in the towel now.

Like the vast majority of people under 25, I supported remain and fully believed that this would be the final outcome. I believed that this would be the case even after a divisive whirlwind of all-round ugly debates and endless smear tactics, though due to being the victim of a late birthday I was unable to have my say in the matter. Despite the disappointment with my nation’s decision on the morning of June the 24th and trying desperately to process, rationalise, and come up with excuses, the thought of a second referendum and remainer redemption never crossed my mind. It would be inexcusable, I thought, as it would be reversing a settled and finalised democratic decision. And yet, as we tread ever closer to a European exit, calls for this very scenario only seem to be getting louder.

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It is also this very scenario that would turn a political and economic mess into a full fledged national disaster. Regardless of the shambles the negotiations are in now, a second referendum, in attempting to reverse this and bring the nation back into the European Union, would widen fissures of national divisiveness into canyons. People often quote the alleged impossibility of politicians achieving a successful brexit, but frankly this is a risk that the political elite took when they presented the European question to the British people. It is for this reason also that the idea of a referendum based on public acceptance or rejection of the proposed deal would be wrong. The electorate took the decision to take Britain out of the EU and from then on, it is the role of the politicians who presented this question in the first place to work out how that would best be achieved. Regardless how tough this task may be, it is far too late to try and reverse the referendum decision by now.

Why would such a decision be an impossibility, you ask? One simple word, democracy. To reverse the referendum decision in a possible bid to avoid economic free fall would lead to a far more deadly problem, in that the very foundations of British democracy would be shaken to their core. Ignoring and overturning one of the biggest referendums the UK has ever had (albeit a non-binding one) would bring public apathy and distrust in politics to a whole new level. To silence the democratic decision of over 17 million people would result in an unfathomable constitutional crisis, monumental social unrest, and an unfathomable level of public division.

But what about the misinformation that people were sold, and the lies that were repeatedly shoved down their throats by the leave campaign, surely that is enough of a black mark to make the final result illegitimate, right? wrong. The European debate as a collective on both the leave and remain sides were filled with dirty tactics and false information. Not only that, but virtually every public political decision in recent British history has been filled with misinformation. That is simply the consequence of mass media and free press, and to dismiss democratic legitimacy on the basis of a media campaign would immediately render every general election of the last 70 years illegitimate as well.

If a second referendum were to be held, how can it be considered any more authoritative or legitimate than the last one? Even if this proposed referendum returns a different result, that would be one victory for each side. How could we claim one result to be more legitimate than another one? It would effectively render the previous referendum, the most significant in British history, as being completely meaningless. What if the leave side were to win again? Would remain still fight for European salvation and develop it into a neverendum? What would it mean for Britain’s political future? the demeaning of such a big issue in this manner could open the floodgates, with people demanding referendums every five minutes to determine important political decisions. In this sense, a second referendum could even pose a threat to the nature of British governance itself.

Ultimately, we can all recognise that Brexit is a mess. It has been a mess on all sides right from the start of the campaign all the way up to the poorly negotiated deal that currently sits on the table. But no matter how difficult this process is, it is too late to turn back now. Revoking a referendum outcome on the basis of Theresa May’s weak negotiations or accusations of the public being fed false information are nowhere near justifiable enough to overturn the wishes of over 17 million people. It may be difficult now, but as a nation we now have to look forward, rather than backwards, and perhaps even relish the global opportunities that will present themselves following Britain’s European exit next March. If we don’t, and insist on seeking a second referendum to undo the damage of the past two years, what is currently a generational political crisis would soon become a constitutional catastrophe.

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