It has been nearly two years since Article 50 was triggered and the process to leave the European Union began. In this time, very little has been accomplished by the government which told us that a free trade agreement with the EU would be ‘the easiest in history’, with a deal only just being agreed mere months before the deadline was reached. However, it is highly unlikely that Theresa May will get her deal approved by Parliament, and with the EU saying that there will be no renegotiation of terms, the remaining options are limited to having no deal or no Brexit.
With the current deal on table almost certainly going to be rejected and joining the EFTA out of the question due to it meaning continued freedom of movement, an option Theresa May could choose to take would be to walk away without a deal. This would be the most economically harmful move to make and would cause the greatest crisis in Britain since the end of WW2. With vital supply chains disrupted, certain types of food, medicine, and the chemicals needed to purify water would soon be in short supply. Large businesses would leave the UK causing a rapid rise in unemployment and a decreased tax revenue for the government to spend. While this outcome is denied by those who want the greatest break with Europe as possible, the potential consequences of a no deal scenario are too severe to be risked and so the only other option that remains is to give the decision to the people if Parliament cannot agree.
A second referendum on the future of Brexit would be the best way to decide what path Britain should take going forward. The options available to vote for would be May’s deal or remaining within the EU, having no deal on the ballot would be too dangerous. The EU has agreed that if the UK wants it can extend the Article 50 deadline, which would provide the time needed to carry out the campaigns and hold the vote. The campaigns this time would have to be heavily observed and policed by the election watchdog, as last time their light-handed approach led to blatant lies being spread across the country and illegal donations being made to the Leave campaign. With two clear options being presented to the British public, there can be no ambiguity this time surrounding what the end result of either choice would be.
The result of a second referendum is by no means pre-determined, whilst the majority of the public currently opposes May’s deal, they may change their minds if remaining within the EU is the only other option. However, the scales may be tipped if there is widespread abstention due to people viewing neither option as representing a proper Brexit. This may be the factor that would allow Remain to win a narrow victory, whilst it may seem embarrassing to have spent nearly three years on a project which was abandoned in the end, it would be vastly more humiliating if we were to commit economic suicide in exchange for no discernible benefits whatsoever.