THE BLOG
28/08/2018 17:39 BST | Updated 29/08/2018 11:09 BST

History Will Look Kindly On MPs Who Vote For A Second Referendum

Westminster has a duty to take into account the will of the people in 2018, which is shifting fast towards staying in the EU

John Keeble via Getty Images

Dear MPs,

In the next few months you will be responsible for decisions that will affect your kids, our communities, and generations.

There are many reasons why you should keep staying in the EU on the table. Here are three of them:

First, MPs have a duty to take into account the will of the people in 2018, which is shifting fast towards staying in the EU.

We already had a hint that support for Brexit was on the decline when May’s gamble in 2017 led to a weakened mandate for her Brexit, not a stronger one. The strength of feeling among the anti-Brexit electorate led to a boost in Labour support that was largely unrecognised at the time of the election or in the months afterwards. The influx of 1.4million new voters that registered in record time in 2017 are 75% remain supporters (according to the British Electoral Study) – many of them young people. The polls have consistently shown an increase in support towards staying in the EU since May 2017, and the split is now 53-47 for staying in, and rising.

Parliament must not deliver an outdated will of the people now the majority want to stay in the EU, as why would the will of the people in 2016 be more important than the will of the people in 2018? 

Second, it’s wise to believe the direction of the polls, especially among Labour voters who are switching in droves in many places towards wanting to stay in. 

People say they don’t trust the polls or pollsters because they always get it wrong. Why has that been so? The head of one of the UK’s largest polling firms admitted at a private gathering a few days before the 2017 election that when his team presented him with the final poll before the 2016 referendum, giving the leave vote a lead of 52 to 48, he sent the results back to be re-weighted because they ‘couldn’t be right’. In the next breath at this 2017 event he guffawed at the latest YouGov poll published just days earlier predicting a hung parliament on the 8 June. That YouGov poll didn’t rely on gut instinct but replaced human bias with the mathematical precision of multilevel regression and poststratification, the same technique that predicted Brexit, Trump and, as it turned out the 2017 hung Parliament, with that very YouGov poll that had been scoffed at. MRP is the technique we used in our Brexit Shift reportto show that a majority of constituencies now have majority support for staying in the EU. The shift largely comes from Labour leavers – which tallies with YouGov’s latest tracker poll showing that a record 78% of Labour voters now think Brexit is a mistake. 

Third, it’s vital to be aware when working out a deal in Westminster that the public do not want Soft Brexit: they want a real choice.

Soft Brexit sounds safe. Like a cushioned landing at the bottom of the White Cliffs of Dover should we go over the Brexit edge. Although so-called soft Brexit would clearly be preferable to extreme Brexit in a Hobson’s choice scenario between the two, there is no need for that choice to even come about given we have the legal and political right to stay in the EU if we want to, at least while the negotiations are going ahead. But soft Brexit has dominated Westminster discussion for most of the last two years, with many MPs under the illusion this would allow Westminster to have its cake and eat it. But Soft Brexit is the kind of political triangulation may make sense in Westminster, but in many ways it is the worst of both worlds. A Brexit somewhere between EEA and the Chequers deal would still deliver some economic damage (just comparatively less than all-out suicidal Brexit), and would give us no say over key areas of the British economy. If we were to adopt the EEA, for example, we would have absolutely no say whatsoever over the laws that would be governing us on the freedom of movement of goods, capital, people and services. Would leave voters who wanted to take back control be up for losing control altogether, when we wield have decision making power as It stands within the EU? If Westminster were to try and deliver soft Brexit without checking where the public stands on staying in, MPs risk being two years behind the public. A majority of people in a majority of constituencies now want to stay in. 

The fairest thing to do in order to respect the will of the people is to allow the people to give their informed consent, or rejection, of the Brexit deal the government brings back, whether that is a deal they strike or a no-deal scenario. As in any deal-making, there is a judgment of whether the deal is better or worse than our current arrangements, and Brexit should be no different. Putting the option to stay in as the key comparator against which to measure Theresa May’s deal is not only the fairest and most logical way of conducting analysis of what Brexit really means, it is also what people want. It’s time for politicians to truly trust the people, and let our Brexit future be determined by the will of the people as it stands now. The beauty of a people’s vote on the terms is that everyone gets to have a voice: Leavers as well as remainers. For those confident that Brexit will bring great benefits, they should also confidently welcome a people’s vote as the way our country can resolve the current mayhem around Brexit. People will not trust Westminster for a generation if MPs force a Brexit no one wants on the country.

Dear MPs, please enable the people to take the key decision out of your hands: history will look kindly on those of you that provide that opportunity, and badly on those that triangulate to deliver a Brexit the majority do not want, of a variety that almost no one wants.

Eloise Todd is CEO of Best for Britain, a political campaign for a second referendum on a Brexit deal