Referendum on final "brexit" deal: How should it be done?

Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
Citizens' Initiative and Referendum I&R ~ GB
13th August 2018

Dear Reader,

After some discussion and exchange we remain convinced that Parliament should prepare to hold a decision-making referendum about UK and EU which will offer the following two choices:

Approve the government's proposal to leave the EU.
The UK shall remain in the EU.
The referendum ballot must logically be held only after negotiations with the EU have been completed. The government must then formulate its "proposal" for leaving the EU and present this first to Parliament for a "meaningful vote" and then to the electorate for final decision by referendum. The government's proposal might turn out to be for a "hard" or softer "brexit".

A correspondent wrote to suggest a three-way choice with preference voting, two similar ideas came from an MP and an anti-"brexit" campaigner

Here is our reply with
some discussion about how the referendum should be designed and carried out.

Although we at INIREF belong to those who recommend that we of the UK and its countries should introduce elements of citizen-led direct democracy, this does not mean that we have written off the indirect, so-called representative system of democracy and governance which prevails. For UK/EU relations the 2016 ballot gave a mandate to the government to negotiate a deal. They should be allowed to get on with this and complete it if they can. Such a deal can only become valid and guaranteed after it has been accepted by the EU (which means all necessary EU bodies such as parl., commission, councils and countries). Once they have accepted the UK proposal then we have a deal which can be put before the UK Parliament and then before the electorate in a referendum. If the EU has rejected our gov's proposal then (unless gov. converts to "remain") the deal to be presented to parl. and electorate, versus "remain", will be "leave with no agreement". Brexiteers would then "have their day". They might win, they might lose. They would be wise to accept any result ....

The above would allow real choices to be put before the electorate on the ballot paper.
1. There would be no point in holding a referendum (as some have suggested) before we have a confirmed result of the government's negotiations. With this timing the goalposts could be moved and we would need another referendum...

2. From the international (complex) bargaining around brexit will emerge (probably) a firm proposal to leave, which may be either "soft(ish)" or "hard" (no agreement and we leave as per Article 50). If agreement with the EU on a "soft" brexit is reached, then based in our representative system that will be the best that government can do. A referendum should then enable the people to decide between the deal and the status quo (remain, revoke Art. 50). Nothing else will realistically be on offer – hence no reason for a multi-choice ballot.

3. As implied above, there is no justification to hold a multiple choice "preference" referendum on some or many of the possible ways to leave the EU either sooner (before bargaining with EU has finished) or later. Only if gov. fails to agree with the EU can another way of leaving be offered, namely "hard" brexit. For this reason a multiple choice "queferendum" should not be contemplated at this stage of the game.  This also applies to the 3-way choice proposals of Gina Miller and separately Justine Greening – see links below. This would serve to undermine the (admittedly deficitary) democratic and governing system which we have. The method is unfamiliar to most citizens; it is untried on the scale of a UK national ballot; it would put off some people from turning out to vote: Critically, there will not be enough time to set up, adequately prepare and organise it.


p.s. It is not that we are fundamentally opposed to preference voting etc. but we consider that it would not be good at this stage of the brexit game.

INIREF wrote:
Late July 2018


There's a very strong case for holding another brexit referendum, this time about a possible final deal with the EU.

In our view this should be held only AFTER the government has finished bargaining with the EU and after all the EU institutions (parliament, commission, council, 27 countries) have given their verdict.

After completing negotiations the government must formulate its proposal for leaving the EU. This could be called "brexit proposal (final)". The proposal might refer to a "deal" worked out with the EU. Or, if for instance the EU has rejected the UK's plan, the government's proposal to leave would in effect be "hard brexit" with an exit fixed by "Article 50" (Treaty on EU).

The "brexit proposal (final)" must first be put before the Parliament for debate and decision, then for confirmation put before the people in a referendum.

This referendum must enable the electorate to make the FINAL decision in the current 2016 onwards brexit process.

On the BALLOT PAPER only TWO choices should be offered. These choices are:

Approve the government's proposal to leave the EU, or
– The UK shall remain in the EU by immediately revoking its application to leave.

For comparison we mention several related proposals for a final "people's vote" about "brexit".

1. Member's proposal (bill) presented to Parliament in the House of Commons by Geraint Davies MP.
Proposes a referendum with two choices:
Support the Government’s proposed exit package (ed. and  leave the EU).
Remain a member of the European Union.

2. By a well respected expert on british constitution, government and democracy, Professor Vernon Bogdanor.
He proposes that two ballots should be held in a two-stage referendum:
A. Ballot to choose between "Leave" and "Remain". B. If "Leave" has won, then another ballot to choose between a "hard" brexit and a softer brexit.

3. By Ms. Gina Miller, a campaigner opposed to "brexit" proposes a single referendum with three choices and a preference voting system.
Leaving on the terms agreed – Ms May’s deal
Remaining with the special deal we already have but with a strong reform vision for the future
Leaving without a deal

4. By the right honourable Justine Greening M.P., Conservative Party, former UK secretary of state for education, government minister, a supporter of "remain" in the EU.
She too recommends a three way choice on the ballot paper:
... people get their say on the three practical routes ahead: Chequers deal; no deal; or Remain. Again, preference voting would be used to identify the option with most support.

5. The Independent on-line newspaper which has started a petition and campaign to allow the electorate the "final say" in a referendum about "brexit".
The Independent today launches a campaign to win for the British people the right to a final say on Brexit. Come what may in the months ahead, we maintain our commitment to our readers to retain balance and present many different points of view. But on this subject we believe a referendum on the final deal is right. We do so for three reasons. ...

Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
Citizens' Initiative and Referendum I&R ~ GB  Free info. about DD, also democracy+brexit Basic presentation