Steve Bullock @GuitarMoog Immigrant, Musician, Sound Engineer, SNP, ex-negotiator for UK in EU. Brother of @JuliaKayPotts. Supporter of @FinalSayForAll. Jan. 18, 2019 4 min read

On the length of time needed for a #FinalSay Referendum, UKGov’s 1 year timetable is fairly obviously over-stating by some way, but it’s equally silly (and potentially damaging) to pretend that it could be knocked out over a wet weekend in February. 1/

The Constitution Unit (@ConUnit_UCL)’s view is that 22-24 weeks is needed for it to be done properly, and I think it should be done properly.  https://constitution-unit.com/2018/08/30/how-long-would-it-take-to-hold-a-second-referendum-on-brexit/amp/?__twitter_impression=true 

The @instituteforgov puts a minimum at 21 weeks. Both are well respected. Neither have much to gain one way or the other, except in maintaining their credibility, and I’ve seen no serious arguments as to why their timelines are flawed. 3/

So we have a timeline of 21-24 weeks. These are however minimums, and it’s worth remembering that, but I’m happy to go with that small range as a guide. 4/

This means that, as the process is unlikely to start on this coming Monday (though, honestly, you never know at the moment), we are looking at a timetable that lands right on or goes beyond the 1st July. In short, we’re probably going to need it to go beyond the EP elections. 5/

I’ve harped on at length about there not being a legal issue with this for EU27 (see thread below), but we should be honest now with EU27 partners that the reality is that we are going to need to ask for an Art50 extension longer than a couple of months.

I would therefore argue that it would be best to look for an extension of six months from the end of March. I’d also argue that it may be better to plan the Ref for September, rather than try to squeeze it in before the summer, and risk slippage in the timetable wrecking it. 7/

The key question then is what the incentive for the EU27 would be to grant such an extension. This question also, in my view, has a serious bearing on what shape the referendum should take. It is pointless, as we’ve seen, to develop a plan that will be rejected by EU27. 8/

Remember as well, that we would be in the position of requesting this extension. This is not a question of EU27 dictating the terms of the ref, but of the UK avoiding No Deal when Parliament is deadlocked, the PM won’t rule it out, and we’re hurtling towards it. 9/

The EU27 don’t want no deal either, but they also don’t want prolonged uncertainty. Both cost, economically and politically. The key then would be to make sure that the plan meant a) the prospect of No Deal would not just be kicked down the road and b) gave some certainty 10/

These, as it happens, are both also good things for the UK whether or not it ended up leaving the EU or not. 11/

Avoiding the prospect on No Deal means it not being on the ballot paper. It shouldn’t be anyway. No responsible Parliament could open us up to something they know will be catastrophic for the UK and its population, and which there is no mandate whatsoever for. 12/

No Deal was almost unheard of before the 2016 referendum. The leave campaigns and campaigners went out of their way to point out that different deals would be available, and to reassure voters that getting a deal would be easy. There is no mandate for it. Forget it. 13/

Equally, it’s pointless putting some unobtainable, renegotiated deal on the ballot paper. All Leave scenarios other than No Deal begin with acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreeement, and the future relationship will be negotiated after Brexit, not before it. 14/

So the only realistic options are Ratify or Remain. This does not neccesarily mean the present Govt’s view of the future relationship. To be taken seriously, the Ratify camp would have to coalesce around a serious vision for the future relationship in the coming months. 15/

So how then do we get some certainty from a Ratify vs Remain referendum? One possibility is to make the result binding. 16/

The legislation could specify that, if the result is Ratify, the Withdrawal Agreement would be considered to be ratified, and the UK would leave the EU and enter the transition period at the end of the Art50 extension period. 17/

The legislation could similarly specify that, should the result be Remain, the Govt would, within a specified period, notify the Council of it’s decision to revoke Article 50. 18/

This would mean the immediate prospects would be guaranteed to be either transition or continued membership, both of which minimise disruption for UK and EU27. 19/

So, for both the UK and the EU, this would provide a much greater level of certainty than now, would eliminate the possibility of an accidental (or deliberate No Deal) that harms both, and would mean no funny-stuff later. 20/20


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