The direction taken by the British government worries everybody, both Tories and Labour.
Jo Johnson has resigned as minister of transport. He denounces an «Incoherent Brexit» and states that it «Is now imperative to go back to the people».
Sadiq Kahn, the London mayor, addresses the executive directly and demands that: «The British public should have a say on the outcome of those negotiations including the option of staying in EU».
Also the business community, as testified by a letter to the Sunday Times signed by more than 70 entrepreneurs leaders, has called for a public vote on Theresa May’s deal.
Are they asking for a new referendum?
The prime minister has already been clear on this point saying that «The government will never accept a second referendum». Still, the time is running out and there is no final agreement. The deadline is on March the 29th, and the two parties are still discussing important issues.
They want to regulate the Northern Ireland frontier, which is the only physical contact between UK and EU, in order to maintain an open border. Indeed, there is still confusion about what kind of custom union is coming after the two years of transition period. Moreover, even if they find an agreement the parliament will have to approve the government proposal.
An eventual rejection could lead to different scenarios:
- General elections
- A new referendum
- Hard Brexit
Jeremy Corby, leader of the Labour party, believes that is impossible to stop Brexit. Once triggered article 50 of TEU — Treaty on European Union — the process is irreversible. In reality, this is not true: a new referendum could be held through a parliament act but this would not be politically convenient.
What could it mean for the people who voted ‘remain’?
They would stop believing in democratic decisions and start feeling powerless. In addition, if this time the outcome would be different, politics would have showed them that London — the establishment — always wins.
The aftermath would be easy to understand. It could be fertile ground for far-right populist leaders to attack democratic institutions and to radicalize public opinion.
European Union would be, as usual, the scapegoat and the constructive dialogue on reforming the European institutions would be stopped. Furthermore, it would delegitimize direct democracy and referendum legal strength.
Europe’s best hopes lie in the British capacity to face and solve the very social and economic problems that have determined Brexit.
Yet, not everything is lost; the British government will always have the possibility to rejoin EU thanks to the point 5 of article 50: «If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49 (Membership criteria)».