Sunday, 16 December 2018

A Second EU Referendum. What's on the Ballot Paper?

Parliament is deadlocked and there is an increasing acceptance that there is a strong case for another referendum. What goes on the ballot paper though? 

In the introduction to her deal, the Prime Minister said that there were three possible outcomes: her deal, a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit. For the sake of simplicity, it would be tempting to go with this. It has been ruled by the European Court that the UK can halt Article 50 process unilaterally and, since there is no majority for a no deal exit in Parliament, another possibility is having a choice between Theresa May’s deal or staying in the EU.

Both are problematic. Those who voted to Leave the EU are understandably annoyed at the very prospect of having to go through a second ballot and are complaining loudly that the 2016 should be respected. I am not going to repeat my own views on the 2016 referendum but there is a point to be addressed. 

What I have in mind therefore is a two part ballot. It can all appear on a single sheet of paper, so avoiding the need and cost to have a two stage referendum. 

Part one of the ballot will be legally binding and will consist of a single question with a binary answer:

Should the United Kingdom stay in the European Union?  YES / NO
Use an X to register your vote in one of boxes below.

As I said, the answer to this question would be legally binding. That means that if the Leave side wins again, there can be no future ballots held on EU membership. In the legislation delivering the ballot, there  should be some kind of minimum time given before Parliament would be able to revisit the question of rejoining the European Union: a minimum of twenty five years. There has to be some safeguard against a cycle of referenda while not tying future generations of citizens to the will of those currently voting. The same time period applies to a remain outcome. One side or the other will have to accept the outcome of this vote.

The second part of the vote will not be legally binding but advisory and would be under a single transferable vote system. Parliament would be not be legally bound to deliver the form of Brexit most popular with the public but would be use it as a guideline as to which outcomes would be most acceptable to public opinion. The examples below are just that but give an idea of the various possible outcomes. It would be up to the campaigns to discuss the pros-and-cons of each. 

This time around, since the public are fully aware of the issues now, a short campaign, three months in length, is acceptable. 

The second part of the referendum is below.

If the vote above results in the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, what is your preferred outcome of future negotiations?
Use a number to express your preference, 1 indicating your preferred outcome and a 4 your least favoured outcome. Other boxes should be filled with a 2 and or


Mickft said...

Just one problem. Our constitution does not allow Parliament to be bound by a referendum, nor for any parliament to bind its successor. So even if this parliament agreed not to have another referendum for 25 years, the next parliament would not be obliged to follow the same path. It could simply repeal the legislation.

Martin Veart said...

What you say is true. It is an unwritten constitution. It would take a brave House to overturn the outcome of a second referendum. The 25 year period is designed to reassert the primacy of representative democracy and reestablish public trust.

The underlying point you raise is the need for a written constitution.