Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
12 January 2018

Nigel Farage’s suggestion for a second referendum would struggle to pass Parliament

Brexit continues to have a number of powerful guarantors on both the left and the right.

By Stephen Bush

Best of three? Nigel Farage has suggested that “maybe, just maybe” a second referendum on the terms of the United Kingdom’s exit deal is the best way to settle the issue. Adding to the drama, it comes as a ComRes poll for the Mirror shows Remain overcoming Leave outside the margin of error for the first time.

It has sparked furious debate over whether the poll is any good, about how the referendum would play out and what it would mean for our chances of getting The Best Deal (™). Which is all very diverting, but of course, the thing about Farage is that he’s not an MP. (Not for lack of trying.)

Any conversation about a second referendum has to start with a meaningful analysis of how you get 325 MPs to vote for it and how you get that vote in the first place. Brexit continues to have a number of powerful guarantors: Eurosceptics on the Conservative backbenches, Eurosceptics in the Labour leadership, pro-Remain Labour MPs in Leave-heavy seats who don’t want to go the way of all flesh, to name just a few.  Not only do you have to overcome all of that, but you have to overcome it all multiple times in a new referendum bill.

You can see how, if the next election results in a Labour government with no parliamentary majority, which feels like the most likely outcome at the moment, a referendum on re-entry might be the cost of doing business with the Liberal Democrats, the SNP or the Greens.  

But as another election founders on the same rock as a soft Brexit – the unwillingness of pro-European Conservative MPs to damage their own government – that looks like a path to reversing rather than stopping Brexit

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery