The argument against a second referendum

Tony Blair has recently said that Britain could remain in the EU were the British public to change its mind about Brexit. Shortly afterwards, John Major said that there was a “perfectly credible” case for a second referendum.

Both Major and Blair argued forcefully for Britain to remain in the EU during the referendum campaign. Even so, their side lost the debate, with Britain voting to leave. 

In a democracy there is an understanding that one doesn’t always win. For the system to function, winners and losers must gracefully accept the result and resume their lives. Therefore, it cannot now emerge that only one side in this referendum was permitted to win. Such an eventuality would decimate the public’s trust in its elected representatives and prompt a level of anger and a sense betrayal of which advocates of a “think again” referendum seem to be alarmingly unaware.

A clear understanding

During the referendum campaign, both former Prime Ministers knew that this referendum was definitive. See the closing remarks of Major’s speech at the Oxford Union in May 2016:

“Over the next few weeks we, the British people, will decide the future direction of our country. This is not a General Election, which rolls around every five years. We can’t “suck it and see” in this referendum. There won’t be another referendum on Europe. This is it. This is where we take the decision. So whatever your view, register and vote because the decision you take on the 23rd of June will shape our country, our people and our livelihoods for many generations to come.” 

That was a clear understanding which must be respected.