A clearer path to a second EU referendum is emerging. This destination is by no means inevitable, but it is becoming much more likely.

In retrospect, there have been four key turning points post-2016 referendum.

Firstly, Lancaster House and its adoption of the take back control of money, laws, and borders edict which rendered anything other than a third party type trade agreement impossible.

Secondly, the snap general election and hung parliament result which, in effect, makes the government reliant on either the support of almost all its MPs or winning opposition MP support.

Thirdly, the UK government’s agreement to the Irish backstop in December which made even a third party type trade agreement virtually impossible.

Fourthly, David Davis and Boris Johnson’s resignations and the rejection of Chequers by a more than sufficient number of Conservative MPs (this before we even need to consider the EU position).

Taken together, the government is now virtually incapable of pursuing all of the future relationship alternatives that either were or might have been on the table. This monomaniacal exercise in corner painting has created various strange outcomes. For example, by Chequers logic, Canada+ Backstop is worse than No Deal.

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So, then, we descend to No Deal as the next logical alternative. The problem is that No Deal is in fact many deals and therefore self-disqualifying (see above) and in any case would be met with overwhelming opposition.

So, what then? A rational Leave strategy would be to downplay the political declaration, accept the backstop, and pay the divorce bill.

In other words, just leave and worry about the future relationship later. It is highly unlikely that sufficient Brexit supporting MPs would vote for this.

So, the tide has turned. There is some evidence for this. The profusion of alternative Brexit plans. The various recent Labour statements. The shift in polling towards Remain.

Most interesting is the recent upsurge in discussion regarding an Article 50 extension. In my view, the best argument against a second referendum is logistics. There simply isn’t enough time. An Article 50 extension is the key that unlocks the gate.

How might this happen?

Per the logic above, there is no majority in the House of Commons for any of the deals ‘on the table’. The default is No Deal and this is not acceptable. So, the UK asks and the EU, I think, accepts. (n.b. Also remember that in the event of a looming No Deal the UK could always revoke Article 50 - this is, actually, leverage.)

The most logical next step would be a general election (hence Labour’s recent movement). But I have difficulties imagining the Conservatives voting for a general election, which, in these circumstances, they would be quite likely to lose.

We reach the end of the path. All other alternatives have been explored. A second referendum is the only way to move forward. I find it strange that I can now articulate an argument that a year ago I would have considered to be fantasy.

My best advice to Leave folks: steer for a destination that will command the support of a clear majority.🔷

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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)

(Cover: Dreamstime/Lucian Milasan.)



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Simon the Stylite is the nom de plume for a (mainly) Brexit related commentator. He is also an aspiring novelist.