Brexit and the Need for A Multiple Choice Referendum

Let us consider two views of the referendum outcome on 23rd June ;  

  • the people have decided to leave the European Union regardless of the terms agreed
  • the people have decided only that they wish to leave, but have expressed no view on the terms of Brexit and therefore need a second referendum to permit this. 

Those most avidly in  favour of Brexit fear that a second referendum could yet undermine their triumph of June 23rd; from this perspective, a second referendum is nothing more than  a devious manoeuvre by  the establishment and the “remoaners” to subvert democracy and the will of the people. 

Yet  a second referendum could be organised in such a way as to meet the objections of all but the most partisan supporters on whichever side of the argument were to be favoured. And let me be clear: this proposal  would include the option to remain within the European Union.  

Before explaining let me first declare my own prejudices on the matter;  I voted to remain; however, I have respect for many of those who voted for Brexit and and I am certainly not without hope for a prosperous future for the UK, outside Europe, whether the Brexit be a hard one or a soft one.  So let me explain how a multiple choice referendum might work.

The Referendum Ballot paper would include at least three options

  1. Leave the EU on the terms negotiated by the Government
  2. Leave the EU without any deal
  3. Remain within the EU

Citizens of the UK would  be invited to number the options in order of preference.

Actually, such a ballot paper might permit the Government to negotiate a number of options for Brexit, all of which could appear on the Ballot paper.  The British people, we are often told, are both intelligent and know what they want; in that case, a little additional complexity should not be a problem.  Those unwilling or unable to contemplate any second choice, should be permitted to mark the paper with an X  in the traditional manner.

Should any one of these options receive a clear majority of first preferences [plus Xs]  the outcome would then be decided.  

If none of the options were to gain a majority of first preferences, then the option with least support would be discarded and second preferences redistributed to produce a final outcome.  [Obviously, if there are more options on the ballot paper, then consideration of third preferences might become necessary.]

The outcome would be clearly democratic, and only the unhinged on either side of the argument would be liable to object to this process.  

Such a process can only be adopted if there is a clear desire for it, so if you think the idea has merit, why not pass it on?  Let’s go viral.


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2 Responses to Brexit and the Need for A Multiple Choice Referendum

  1. Martin Price says:

    Certainly not a jeopardy free proposal, but it’s an honest, democratic and pragmatic. It allows the government to progress the negotiations without their hands tied to any preconditions (like nil free movement), because ultimately the electorate will decide. Pragmatic it is, deliverable it probably isn’t as the Brexit camp will simply call foul and,firstly not agree to it happening and, secondly, will never accept anything other than a full-blooded red, white and blue option.

  2. carruchan says:

    You comment – correctly I think – that this proposal would allow “the government to progress the negotiations without their hands tied to any preconditions.” This is one reason that a multiple choice referendum might actually have some appeal to the Government [as distinct from the pro Brexit team currently leading the negotiations] and therefore be “deliverable”. But more important in the acceptance of this idea is the sovereignty of The House of Commons; a majority of MPs are uncomfortable with the course Brexit is taking, but currently see no other option than to honour the vote of June 23rd, which so crudely boiled down the complexities of the decision into a binary choice.

    Were a multiple choice referendum to be recognised as the key to opening up other options, then the ground would start to shift and the part that the Commons has to play in the debate become more than just a symbolic one.

    Yes: as you say, the more extreme Brexit camp would call foul; I do not underestimate the possible extremity of this reaction, but such a bullying tendency should not be permitted to subvert a more nuanced democratic expression than has hitherto been possible.

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