Having a few emails and letters from constituents asking me to back a second EU Referendum. Most of them describe this second EU Referendum as a ‘People’s Vote’ as if this renaming would make it more acceptable. Not to me it won’t. I’m not just a bit against it. I am totally 100% against it. And it’s not going to happen anyway. It’s a very very unwise idea.
I’m grateful to Lord (William) Hague for using his Telegraph column today to give order to the reasons that have underpinned my implacable opposition. I defy anyone to argue that this second EU Referendum is a ‘goer’ after reading my or Lord Hague’s laying out of the reasons why not.
Firstly, it would take getting on for a year to arrange. A special EU Referendum Act would have to be passed by both Houses of Parliament. There would be unlimited potential for dispute over its terms. There would then have to be time allowed for campaigns. It would not happen until the autumn of 2019. And the ghost of UKIP would burst out from its grave like a mighty colossus.
We have no idea what the question would be. Some want it be whether to accept whatever deal is agreed between the UK and the EU. Some want it only if we cannot agree a deal. And some want a straightforward re-run with a Remain option. And some even want a multiple choice. Unlimited potential for rows over this as well. Next autumn is ambitious!
Thirdly, a second vote would not settle the matter. What would happen next. I have no idea, without knowing the new referendum question.
Fourthly, the UK could well be torn asunder. The debates would be bitter. Far more bitter than last time. So bitter that Scotland and perhaps Northern Ireland would be estranged from England and Wales for ever. And London estranged from the rest of England and Wales.
Fifthly, I cannot see the Conservative Government surviving the bitter warfare which would be involved. There would be chaos, probably leading to a Corbyn led Gov’t which would be an outcome so damaging to the future of Britain that I simply cannot find the words.
And sixthly, a decision to hold a referendum would lead to the EU doing all it could to avoid a deal. We already have some who want to Leave, and most who want to remain doing all they can to undermine the Prime Minister’s negotiating strength. A decision to hold a second referendum would make further negotiation pointless. The interests of the EU would be for the negotiations to fail.
At Saltzberg, a few days ago, the leaders of the EU27 set out to humiliate the Prime Minister and humiliate Britain. If we decided to hold a second referendum, we would be humiliating ourselves.