Could a people’s vote reverse the Brexit decision?

This week, I attended the first annual lecture to commemorate the distinguished former European Commission official Julian Priestley (1950-2017) whom I knew briefly in the mid 1970s. The speech – a low-key but heartfelt address – was given by Richard Corbett, a long time Member of the European Parliament and leader of the British Labour Party in the Parliament, and I found myself sitting next to Neil and Glenys Kinnock.

Corbett argued that “Brexit should not be considered to be a settled issue” and that “There are good reasons for Britain to reconsider Brexit”.  He insisted that “The emerging Brexit deal bears no comparison with what was promised in the referendum”. He acknowledged that opinion polls suggested that support for Brexit has only fallen slightly since the referendum, but he compared this position with the expectation that the public – like so many politicians – would swing behind Brexit as a settled issue in principle.

In the discussion which followed, there was recognition of the complexities around a rethink on Brexit with one contributor referring to the position of other Member States and pointing out that “It takes 28 to tango”. But there was wide support for a second referendum which would give citizens a vote on the actual deal once concluded and a belief that the rest of the EU would grant the UK a reasonable period to hold such a referendum and would accept a rejection of Brexit even at that late stage.


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