The gathering consensus for a second Brexit referendum may be only among the usual suspects

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 18, 2019

The Financial Times has spoken out. And so has The Economist. Voters deserve a final say on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, both pronounced, with the deep gravity that can only come from the editorial board of an authoritative newspaper.

They offered pretty good reasons for their stance. The FT pointed out the implications of the new Brexit deal procured by Prime Minister Johnson. “The UK in a Changing Europe think-tank estimates that trade losses and more restricted migration under the Johnson deal would reduce UK income per capita by 2.3 per cent over a decade — against 1.9 per cent in Mrs May’s deal — compared with remaining in the EU. Add in likely productivity effects and the reduction could be up to 7 per cent in 10 years.”

It would be, said the FT, “a hefty price to pay for ‘taking back control’.”

And then there are the implications for the UK union. “Granting a special status to Northern Ireland — a big economic winner in the revised deal — but not to similarly Remain-voting Scotland could fuel renewed demands for Scottish independence.”

In the circumstances, a confirmatory referendum would make sense. In the 2016 referendum on Brexit (a time when Brexit was not even a word), voters couldn’t see where it might lead if the UK left the EU. Now, they do, and it’s best to check if they still want to go down that route.

As I said before, all of this makes a lot of sense. But it’s debatable if agreement between the FT and The Economist really amounts to a gathering consensus for a second Brexit referendum.

True, many more MPs are talking about it now. That’s a change from the position in April, when the Kyle-Wilson proposal for a second referendum, failed to pass in parliament by a mere 12 votes.

Even then, Kyle-Wilson was the least contentious of all the political plans put to parliamentary vote in the three years since Brexit. Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, whose names are appended to the plan, now say that sentiment has shifted still further and it’s worth trying again to get it through parliament.

Perhaps. We can’t know until we find out.

The way we are now in Britain, it’s as if W. B. Yeats were observing and writing:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer…