Sunday 22 September 2019

Editorial: 'Good case for a second Brexit vote'

'At the moment there is some momentum behind a campaign for a second referendum' Stock photo: PA Wire/PA Images
'At the moment there is some momentum behind a campaign for a second referendum' Stock photo: PA Wire/PA Images
Editorial

Editorial

From the moment the people of the United Kingdom voted, in their wisdom, to leave the European Union it was widely accepted that, from the perspective of Ireland, there would be no such thing as a good Brexit.

The draft withdrawal agreement since negotiated between the European Union and the UK, to be sure, represents the best possible outcome for Ireland. The fact remains, however, that Brexit, in whatever form, is still bad news for this country. That said, the Government and officials here and representing the EU are to be commended for negotiating an agreement which would mitigate the worst possible outcomes here. However, the final outcome is still far from certain.

Political developments in the UK since the agreement was published last week, while predictable at a level, are also alarming. Ireland is not out of the woods yet, although a clearing is in sight, before the second phase of this process begins - negotiations on a trade agreement between the EU and UK. However, the possibility of a disastrous no-deal Brexit still remains.

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So vigilance and all effort must be maintained in Dublin until the threat of a leadership challenge to UK prime minister Theresa May is resolved, the prospect of a snap general election in the UK recedes and the current draft agreement is supported by the EU27 and, more uncertainly, passes through the House of Commons in the UK.

If we have learned one thing in the tortuous process since the UK voted more than two years ago, it is that the Brexit referendum campaign was conducted in a shockingly misleading fashion by those who supported the UK's exit from the EU. Indeed, the decision of the former UK prime minister David Cameron to hold a referendum on this issue in the first place was badly misplaced. Further, the manner in which influential elements within the UK establishment sought to conduct the negotiations was illuminating in either its naivete or ignorance, wilful or otherwise.

However poorly the UK managed the negotiations - it made several tactical errors - an agreement has emerged which is mostly a tribute to the ingenuity of career civil servants and, no doubt, the host of lawyers behind it. That agreement exposes the excesses of the shockingly misleading Brexiteers. The people of the UK have been subjected to a sharp learning curve with some evidence available that a relevant proportion would now vote otherwise.

At the moment there is some momentum behind a campaign for a second referendum, either on the draft agreement itself or, indeed, more widely to include a question on whether the people of the UK, knowing what they know now, still want to leave the EU.

There is a counter argument that the people have spoken and that to hold a second referendum would do little to bind a deeply divided country. Furthermore, there is no certainty that a second referendum would reverse the decision to leave the EU.

On balance, however, so ill-informed was the referendum campaign up to June 2016, we would tend to support those calls for a second referendum with the enticing possibility that the people will next time vote to remain in the European Union. At a minimum, they would know what they are voting for next time.

Sunday Independent

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