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A people's vote is not so simple

Supporting Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill with a referendum attached is a risky option for those who believe it is a bad Bill.  Labour is right to agonise over the decision.  However, in the end, it might be the only option available.

Labour has argued consistently for a customs union with the EU as the best way forward short of remaining in the EU.  The May/Johnson withdrawal agreement is a long way from that objective.  So, should Labour now allow the Bill to pass through parliament on condition of a referendum?  Or should it hold out for a renegotiation and a better deal?  Short of Labour winning a general election, the latter option looks unlikely.

Would it be responsible for parliament to put what it considers to be a bad deal back to the people to decide? And if they do, would it produce a precise result.  What conditions, if any, should be attached to the vote?

One reason for putting a deal back to the people is that parliament is unable to agree on what is a 'good' deal.  However, the argument for a  people's vote goes further than that.  It isn't merely that a 'bad deal' should be put back to the people.  If parliament has failed to resolve the difficulties, then how would a people's vote do so?

It would be a lame campaign that argued merely that voters should support the deal because it is the only deal the government has negotiated.

 Some would argue that if voters want to leave with a deal, then they should have workable options to choose from, else voters might reject the deal for the same reasons parliament has done to the May/Johnson withdrawal agreement.   This does not tell us what the 'will of the people' really is.

Would parliament be saying to voters that this is a safe option to vote for?  The people might think so on the assumption that the deal has been rigorously examined by parliament.   But that is not so.  It would not have been.   They might assume that the government has considered the possible harmful effects, but decided that they have covered them.   You don't expect a surgeon to suggest an option unless they think it would produce a reasonable outcome.   But for the May/Johnson deal, parliament has consistently found that it would not do so.

Presenting a bad deal, the details of which are uncertain might leave us in the same position as now - a divided country with no clear path forward.   If voters say 'no' what does that mean?  Does it mean they want to remain? Or is it that they see the deal is a lousy arrangement?

A referendum appears as a simple option, but the result may be unclear and downright dangerous. It might further entrench opinion, and the campaign may be a bitter one, leaving the country more divided and broken and in an even worse constitutional crisis than it already has.

If the option is Deal or Ramain, then what genuine option would leavers who believe it to be a bad deal have?  If there are more than three options, then how can the majority option be decided?

A People's vote is not the simple solution it appears to be.

However, this does not mean it should be ruled out.  On the contrary, a people's vote is needed, not to resolve what parliament has failed to achieve - an agreed compromise.   A people's vote is necessary because it is the right thing to do.  To put a reasonable and workable deal back to the people to decide if it is really what they want.

Anyone thinking a people's vote is easy to formulate is fooling themselves.  A people's vote is right, but how is it to be done?




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