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The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit

The Constitution Unit has no positition on Brexit, or on whether a further Brexit referendum should be held. But if a further vote is considered, it is critical that it is carefully planned, transparently conducted, and commands the maximum legitimacy. The Unit's reports on the mechanics of a further referendum seek to inform debate on these issues.

The first report, The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit, was published in October 2018. The second report, The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit Revisited: Questions for the New Parliament, followed in December 2019 and offers substantially updated analysis in the context of the 2019 general election campaign.

The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit Revisited: Questions for the New Parliament

The outcome of the general election cannot yet be known, but proposals for a further public vote on Brexit lie at the heart of many parties' manifestos.

Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit - report cover

Jeremy Corbyn promises that a Labour government would 'get Brexit sorted' within six months, and Boris Johnson plans to reintroduce his Brexit deal to parliament by Christmas if the Conservatives win the general election. The Liberal Democrats pledge that, unless they win a majority and can enact their policy of revoking Article 50, they will 'fight' for a second referendum with the option to stay in the EU. 

The Unit's new report, The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit Revisited: Questions for the New Parliament, substantially updates previous analysis on this topic. It examines the scenarios under which a further referendum might come about, and considers the key questions which referendum advocates in parliament would face: what options should be put to voters, whether the result should be legally binding and how the vote should be run.

The report is written by Alan Renwick, Meg Russell, Lisa James and Jess Sargeant. It forms part of the Constitution Unit's Brexit, Parliament and the Constitution project in collaboration with The UK in a Changing Europe

 

Download the full report

Read the news story

Blogposts

A preliminary version of the report's key conclusions was published as a blogpost in November 2019, and an edited version of the final chapter was published to coincide with the report's publication. Links to these posts can be found below.

The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit Revisited: Questions for the New Parliament 

A further referendum on Brexit is central to many parties’ general election pledges. Today, the Constitution Unit launches a new report examining how such a vote might come about and what form it might take. This updates previous work conducted last year. In this post, adapted from the report’s final chapter, Alan Renwick, Meg Russell, Lisa James and Jess Sargeant sum up the key conclusions. They find that, though it would not be without difficulties, a vote on Johnson’s deal may be the quickest option and the one most likely to command public legitimacy. 

Five key questions about a further Brexit referendum

Proposals for another Brexit referendum will be at the heart of the election campaign and it is therefore important that the viability of politicians’ plans are thoroughly tested. Drawing on recent research, Alan Renwick, Meg Russell and Lisa James set out five key questions. 

Key links

The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit

The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit - report cover
The possibility of a further referendum on Brexit is being discussed widely. The Constitution Unit has no position on Brexit or on whether such a referendum should be held. But decisions about whether there will be such a referendum and, if so, what form it will take are important and should be made in full understanding of the options and issues involved. The Unit’s report The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit is intended to inform discussion.

Published in October 2018, the report finds that a referendum would be possible if parliament wanted it, though it would raise a number of challenges. There are several points in the Brexit process at which such a vote could be triggered. The report analyses the possible timing, the referendum question, and the regulation of the ballot.

The report is written by Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick, and Meg Russell and funded by the JRSST Charitable Trust. 

View a short video summarising the report’s key results

Download the full report

Read the news story

Blogposts

Preliminary versions of the report's chapters were published as blogposts between August and October 2018. Links to these posts can be found below.

Is a second referendum on Brexit possible? Seven questions that need to be answered

Two years on from the Brexit vote, the benefits of a second referendum are being hotly debated. In this post, Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell identify seven questions that should be considered before parliament decides whether a second Brexit referendum will take place.

How long would it take to hold a second referendum on Brexit?

With exit day less than seven months away, one of the perceived obstacles to a second Brexit referendum is time. Here, in the second in a series of posts on the practicalities of a second referendum, Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell discuss the constraints, concluding a new referendum could be held much more quickly than previous polls but a delay to exit day would most likely still be needed.

How could a second Brexit referendum be triggered?

 With ‘exit day’ less than seven months away, public debate about a second Brexit vote continues. In the third of a series of posts on this topic Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell outline the key decision points and processes by which MPs or the government might choose to trigger a second referendum.

If there’s a second referendum on Brexit, what question should be put to voters?

In the fourth of a series of posts on the mechanics of a possible second referendum on Brexit, Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell consider what question might be asked. This would be crucial for the result of any such referendum to command legitimacy. Various models have been proposed, but some are far more credible than others in the current context.

Could Article 50 be extended to allow for a second Brexit referendum?

This is the fifth in the series of posts about the practicalities of a possible second referendum. With ‘exit day’ set for 29 March 2019, Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell ask whether the Article 50 period could be extended to allow a referendum to take place, and what the knock-on consequences would be.

What would be the rules for a second Brexit referendum?

This week’s Labour Party conference leaves a further Brexit referendum firmly on the political agenda. In the sixth of a series of posts on the mechanics of such a vote, Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick, and Meg Russell examine what rules and regulations should govern the referendum process, arguing that important changes are needed to facilitate a fair and transparent campaign.

How and when might a second referendum on Brexit come about?

In the last of a series of posts on this topic, Meg Russell, Alan Renwick and Jess Sargeant sum up the report’s findings, focusing on how a referendum might come about, what question would be asked, and the implications for referendum timing.

Key links

This project is led by Alan Renwick and Meg Russell with Jess Sargeant as Research Assistant.