Thursday 25 August 2016 4:01 am

Is Labour's Owen Smith right that there should be another referendum on the Brexit deal?

Chris Rumfitt is founder and chief executive of Field Consulting.
and Alex Deane

Chris Rumfitt, founder and chief executive of Field Consulting, says Yes.

“Brexit means Brexit” declared our new Prime Minister Theresa May upon taking office. The only problem with that statement is that at no point during the referendum campaign did that word Brexit get defined. Single Market membership? European Economic Area membership? Basic World Trade Organisation rules? All of these things offer different models of Brexit and paint a fundamentally different picture of the future of Britain. Given this, while there is clearly a mandate for a radically reformed relationship with the EU, at the end of the day, the British people deserve the chance to decide whether they like what’s proposed or not. If, in perhaps five years time, people don’t like the new deal on the table, it would be madness and profoundly undemocratic to tie ourselves to a previous decision. “No Parliament can bind its successor” is one of the central tenets of our unwritten constitution. That no referendum can bind a subsequent referendum should become another one.

Alex Deane, a common councilman who sits on the Corporation of London’s Policy and Resources Committee, says No.

Referendums should deliver clear mandates. Should we be in the EU, or not? Should Scotland be in the UK, or be independent? Should we have proportional representation, or first past the post? These are clear questions that can deliver a direction of travel for our politicians. It’s then up to them to execute the process mandated by that vote. So Owen Smith’s plan for a second referendum on a negotiated Brexit settlement isn’t just a thinly disguised subversion of the clearly expressed will of the British people: it also wouldn’t work as a referendum. Unlike the clear, binary decision we just faced (stay in the EU, or don’t – clear as can be, whatever sore losers might like to say), the result of a second referendum on the negotiation would not give a direction to our political class. We wouldn’t know what’s being rejected. The immigration section? The trade part? Or the decision we took in the first place?

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