February 22, 2019

The Case Against a Second EU Referendum

“The possibility of a second referendum offers, to many, a tantalizing prospect of rescue from political deadlock. Since Parliament cannot decide on a deal and largely refuses to contemplate “No Deal,” this argument goes, we should allow the people to “choose” once more.

Barrister Oliver Conolly has offered a well-written and thoughtful case for a second referendum here on Quillette, which acknowledges some of the flaws that advocates of this plan often ignore.

Yet his analysis, in my view, suffers several major drawbacks. I will discuss these in loose categories, starting with the least important before broadening my analysis out to more substantive complaints.


The first category consists of examples of bias. To his credit, Conolly restricts his discussion to the official campaign groups in the 2016 referendum, rather than appealing to the excesses of the unofficial campaign groups. Yet he still maintains that the Leave campaign was more deceitful than Remain—a debatable proposition. Conolly also uses the loaded term “People’s Vote” throughout the article—not always in inverted commas. As numerous objectors have pointed out, participants in the 2016 referendum weren’t animals. At times, he indulges in obvious snobbery, e.g. referring to “Some of the more intellectually sophisticated Brexiteers.” This is precisely the kind of pompous, technocratic elitism that led to Remain’s defeat in the first place.”

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