Another referendum on Brexit deal is indeed a nonsense. The whole Brexit is a nonsense and adding extra irrationality makes it even more absurd.

There is also the question of how realistic it is to organise a meaningful referendum. Time is perhaps the biggest limitation. We now have less than 230 days to March 29, 2019.

The next problem is ‘the subject’ itself. Following the media comments, one would be under impression that we are now formulating our future EU-UK trade agreement. Hence the talk about a Trade Deal or No Deal as the outcomes of the current talks. This is not the case.

We are now negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement not a Trade Deal Agreement. This confusion has been with us for some time. Remember the ‘row of the summer’ last year? It was about ‘sequencing’ – David Davis wanted to talk about trade and withdrawal agreements simultaneously. Three months of UK bluffing, posturing and threatening, three hours to climb down. Last October, the UK agreed to sign a Withdrawal Agreement first and only when our past commitments will be decided and settled we can talk about future trade arrangement.

There is logic in that: The Withdrawal Agreement has to be approved by ‘a qualified majority’. That means at least 15 EU countries and at least 65% of the total EU population supporting the deal. By contrast, a Free Trade Agreement must be approved unanimously by all 32 parliaments in all 27 countries. (And then the Brexiteers say there is no democratic decision in the EU!)

The third problem is what the referendum question should be. A question about a future, yet unknown, agreement is nay impossible. A simple question which states intentions only is useless as we have learned from our 2016 referendum.

Multiple questions including each option with its myriads of variations would be mindboggling. Referendum could not capture Facilitated Customs Arrangement, NHS, social housing, passporting for the City of London, not to have a border in Northern Ireland where WTO terms insist on such a border – to name but few.

Simplification would therefore be required. Broadly we have three options: 1) Leaving with No Deal (WTO), 2) Cancelling Article 50 and staying in and 3) a compromise along European Economic Area (EEA) deal with perhaps some things taken out and others thrown in.

A referendum with these three options would succumb to Condorcet paradox. The paradox states that for more than two options a collective compromise is not what the majority of people want. A good example is the Chequers Papers: majority of Leavers and Remainers don’t want it.

Even if we use known defined options for such a referendum, we would still not know the impact on the UK. But regardless of the impact, we know that Remainers would prefer EEA to No Deal and Leavers would prefer No Deal to EEA.

Nonetheless, as Jacob Rees Mogg responded in his ‘vassal state’ riposte, Leavers too would prefer to stay in the EU rather than to accept EEA compromise.

Thus, neither Leavers nor Remainers would be happy with EEA. But a variation of EEA is exactly what is the most likely outcome of the present negotiations. Condorcet paradox.

In conclusion, a referendum with multiple choices of “Do you agree with the government deal” and “Do you wish to Leave without a deal” and “Do you want to Remain in the EU” would lead us nowhere. Whatever the decision derived from such a referendum the majority would feel “this is not my country anymore”.

To function as a society we must re-connect and decide on future action. Despite the fact that we do not have time, don’t know the deal and cannot formulate the question.

One way out would be to ask an all-embracing question. If we reap the benefits of Brexit in 50 years’ time, the poll could ask: Do you wish for UK government to pursue policies which make you poorer in the next 50 years? It is a safe assumption that the answer would be a definite NO from the majority of voters.

Another way to approve EU Withdrawal is to eliminate Condorcet paradox: the choice must be either the deal Theresa May brings from Brussels or staying in the EU.

What about the time limitation? Vince Cable mentioned that when we managed to legislate banks nationalisation in no time at all during credit crunch, we can pass a quick legislation for a referendum too.

To have another Brexit referendum is indeed a nonsense. To force the elected representatives to clearly define the options, to formulate the existential Brexit question and to discuss publicly the likely impact is altogether another matter.

Brexit is a people made problem. Only people can solve it. People’s vote is the way.

Whatever the result we must hope it will unite the country.

George Smid is chair of the European Movement East Midlands.

This is not the Trump’s confusion about would and wouldn’t. I mean it. We have not heard about Brexit at all recently.

Yes, there was a lot of talk about the drama of Brexit in the parliament, cabinet resignations, Chequers Papers, White Papers, amendments, … surely, we have heard a lot about Brexit.

Yes and no. What has completely disappeared from the discussions is why people voted to leave the EU and how likely it is to fulfil these Brexit promises.

Instead, we are talking about MPs’ pairing, Irish border, ministerial visits to European capitals …. We hear about Brexit strategies; we don’t hear how and if we can fulfil Brexit aims.

We talk about Brexit the same way we talked in Middle Ages about the Black Death. Plenty of talk but without understanding what Black Death was and how to deal with it.

We still don’t know how to deal with Brexit. We try to scare evil spirit, we ostracise people with symptoms, we think the cure is the right smell to dislodge ‘bad air’. We note that the Jews are less affected but we don’t know why. So instead of learning from them to wash our hands we kill the Jews blaming them for the epidemic.

This column repeatedly argued against such a ‘religious based’ approach to Brexit and advocated cost-benefit analysis, a test run for a no-deal Brexit and for the Leavers and Remainers coming together to present their alternatives.

It is pointless for the PM to cry ‘get on with it’ if we don’t know what to get on with.

For a short while we knew what Brexit was. Free movement of goods but not services. On Friday we had a proposal, two days later the Brexit secretary resigned. Ten more resignations followed and divided the government, the parliament, the country, the families again.

We are going about Brexit the wrong way. We look at symptoms not the cause. Is the smell of rose petals the best way to keep the plague away? Or will straw smell be sufficient?

We should use the summer recess to work out how to fulfil the original aims of Brexit.

Let’s start by checking the VoteLeaveTakeControl website what we initially expected from Brexit.

First aim was “our money on our priorities” (£350 million for NHS, £20 billion for schools).

Next, we wanted to “take back control”: of immigration (76 million of Turks moving into UK), of our laws (UK ‘outvoted’ every time at a cost of £2,4 billion) and of our economy and trade (own laws and regulations, own trade deals; Euro currency collapsing).

We will achieve that because the Brits are great: the fifth largest economy, the fourth military power, permanent member of NATO and UN Security Council.

Finally, Vote Leave specifies the way the UK leaves the EU, quote: taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden step. We will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave.

Clearly, none of these aims are presently discussed. Some claims changed – Brexit reduced us to the sixth largest economy. Some are not linked to Brexit at all – NATO and UN. Some were abandoned – negotiating before leaving. The rest is plainly wrong:

  • Money: The Brexit will save us £13.3 billion but £7,5 billion will be spent on withdrawal agreement. The rest goes to farmers, so no saving there.
  • Immigration: The EU migration is down; the overall migration is up. Indeed, the government spent £40 million to recruit more no-EU migrants. People who voted to control immigration did not vote for replacement of one type with another type.
  • Regulations: If we want to trade with the EU, we will have to follow EU rules and regulation. Everybody does – see the latest trade deal between Japan and EU. Meanwhile, not a whiff of UK own deals.

So what next? Two months before the Withdrawal Agreement we still discus which Brexit we want.

In reality we have only two options: to stay or to leave without a deal. To decide which, we need another vote – in the Parliament or a third referendum (the first was in June 1975, the second in June 2016).

But, and this is a big but, there is no point in another vote if the alternatives are not fully defined. It is therefore the duty of Leavers and Remainers to specify their post-Brexit vision. It is no good to say we have to wait for 50 years to see what it is.

We know what Brexit was supposed to deliver. Now we must vote on how we get that. If the best way to fulfil Brexit promises is to stay in the EU there is no reason why we should not stay.

We just must talk about Brexit proper now.

George Smid is chair of the European Movement East Midlands.

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