Campaign for new Brexit referendum gathers pace

LONDON: After losing the most contentious referendum in British history, James McGrory went for a drink in The Hope pub near London’s medieval meat market. Amid butchers in bloodied coats, his dream of reversing Brexit seemed hopeless.
Two years later, with the country in crisis over how or whether to leave the European Union, McGrory is feeling more confident that his campaign can help secure another referendum that he hopes would overturn the 2016 result.
The idea of a second referendum has been gathering support from some senior British politicians and seems to have traction with sections of public opinion, but the political situation is so uncertain that it is hard to say whether this will actually translate into another vote, and when or how that might done, or what question might be put.
“We have gone from being seen as a fringe view, dismissed and laughed at, to now being at the centre of the Brexit debate,” McGrory, the 36-year-old campaign director of the People’s Vote campaign, said in an interview.
“The odds are getting shorter every day that we get another referendum. All the momentum is with our campaign.”
Betting odds show there is a 43 per cent probability of an EU referendum before 2020. Gamblers think there is a 55 per cent probability that Britain does not leave as planned on March 29.
Opinion polls suggest there has been a slight shift by voters towards remaining in the EU, but the public remains broadly split down the middle.
It remains unclear how exactly a second vote might be called, though some lawmakers have drafted a detailed roadmap, setting out possible legislative routes to another referendum.
Meanwhile, campaigners for another vote are busy lobbying parliament and trying to drum up public support with rallies and on social and mainstream media. They note Prime Minister Theresa May has included their desired outcome as one of three options facing the country: her deal, no deal or reversing Brexit.
US investment bank JP Morgan said the chances of Britain calling off Brexit had increased after a string of parliamentary defeats for May cast new doubt over her plan to quit the bloc.
Turning Brexit upside down would mark one of the most extraordinary reversals in modern British history and likely alienate the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU.
The path to a new referendum is fraught with crisis.
May’s Brexit deal has first to be voted down in parliament on December 11. Second, her government has to endure an attempt by the opposition Labour Party to topple it and then call a national election.
With the clock ticking down to March 29 and financial markets pricing in what would be a potentially disorderly exit, McGrory and his campaigners hope Britain’s politicians will accept they have come to a dead end and throw the question back to voters.
David Lammy, a Labour lawmaker, said that after parliament fails to reach a consensus it will reluctantly agree to hold another referendum as the best among a limited number of escape routes to avoid a potentially chaotic exit.
“We will probably end up going round and round in circles and when politics is stuck and cannot reach compromise then the only way to get out of that is to go back to the people,” Lammy said.
Lammy said that the situation may resemble Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House, which revolves around a will settlement that has been in court so long that few of the participants can remember the original arguments.
A new referendum can only be called if it is approved by parliament. This could be either put forward by the government or by rebels. — Reuters