Column: The People's Vote march is not how you stop Britain leaving the European Union.
PUBLISHED: 10:50 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:01 25 October 2018
The People's Vote march was admirable, but that's not the way to stop Britain leaving the European Union.
Last weekend, hundreds of people from St Albans and Harpenden joined a march in London calling for what has become known as a ‘People’s Vote’.
This would be a second (or is it third?) referendum on Britain’s relationship with the European Union (EU), specifically it would be a vote on whether to accept the government’s eventual Brexit deal.
Or at least I think that’s what it will be on.
Ever since this idea of another referendum came about I’ve been desperate to know: what would the referendum ask us to decide?
Will it repeat the question put to us in 2016? Will it ask us whether we should accept the government’s deal? Will it be a choice between accepting the government’s deal, going for no-deal, or remaining in the European Union? Will it be another General Election?
Probably the reason there is not a question is because another referendum is a bit of a fool’s errand.
Referenda are not legally binding. The fact the 2016 one has got us where we are is because that was pretty clear-cut: the majority of voters wanted the United Kingdom to leave the EU.
Any more complicated than that and you get into trouble because a referendum is not the same as a General Election.
It doesn’t automatically change which people sit in the Commons so it is unlikely to lead to a change in government and a change in policy like a People’s Vote might be asking for.
If another referendum takes place, the government would still be reliant on the DUP and there will still be MPs who support Brexit.
It’s the same problem the Leave campaign had in the 2016 vote: they suggested spending more money on the NHS, but did not win power to do that.
Another vote would only influence the UK Parliament and not the EU, which is crucial because the process to leave the EU is an EU mechanism: Article 50.
A member state initiating Article 50 starts a two-year countdown to when that member state leaves the EU.
Before then, there could be all sorts of shenanigans about trade deals and transition periods. But unless you call off Article 50, it will keep on counting down.
Voting to reject the government’s Brexit deal will do nothing to affect Article 50. That process will continue until we leave on March 29, 2019.
So, if I was trying to stop us leaving the EU, I would be lobbying the Parliament to vote to halt Article 50.
I would not be calling for another vote, partly because our country has much bigger problems on its plate than Brexit.
But I do applaud those who went on the march for taking part in a democratic and peaceful action.