In Brief

Second referendum odds: will the public get another say on Brexit?

Corbyn hints that Labour could stay neutral in a second EU vote

Jeremy Corbyn has refused to rule out Labour staying neutral if a second referendum was a choice between remaining in the EU and a Labour Brexit deal.

The Labour Party leader confirmed that he would campaign to remain in the EU against a no-deal Brexit. But when given a choice of a Labour deal or remaining in the EU, Corbyn did not say which side he would back, reports The Guardian.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that, while he would campaign to remain in such a scenario, the Labour party’s position was subject to “democratic process”.

McDonnell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think generally people want to provide the electorate with a choice. I’ve made it clear from my personal position that I’ll be campaigning for Remain. I think that’s the best choice.”

But Corbyn refused to answer directly when asked if he personally would support Remain in a people’s vote.

What are the odds of a second referendum going ahead?

According to the bookmakers, Corbyn’s lukewarm support for a referendum and Boris Johnson’s dogged desire to avoid one at all costs means the odds are against the so-called People’s Vote, with 1/25 against another poll, and 12/1 for.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly resisted calls to hold a second referendum, insisting that the UK would leave the EU on 31 October with or without a deal, in accordance with the result of the 2016 vote.

“The problem for Johnson,” says Foreign Policy, “is that British voters have never had the opportunity to vote on what kind of Brexit they want." 

At an East Midlands Labour event on Monday, Corbyn said that the British people were due a “final say” on whether they still wanted to leave the EU once the alternative option - be it a deal with Brussels or crashing out of the bloc - is clear.

“It is not a rerun of 2016. It is simply saying the people of this country should make the final decision,” he said.

“If it is No Deal versus Remain then obviously John McDonnell and others made it very clear we would support Remain. If there is the opportunity for some other option to be put then that will be put.”

If there was another referendum, then Remain could have the edge. An aggregate of 71 recent polls by whatukthinks.org put Remain on 45%, Leave on 41% and don’t know/undecided on 13%.

Polls show that Remain has mostly stayed ahead of Leave since autumn 2017.

How would another referendum work?

Organising a second referendum would take at least 22 weeks, according to the Constitution Unit at University College London.

Passing the legislation would require a majority of MPs and Lords to vote in favour of holding a vote. In 2016, this took seven months, but in theory this could be done in as little as 12 weeks by copying the wording of the legislation used to put forward the previous EU referendum.

However, there are likely to be disagreements and challenges over aspects of the vote, like the wording of the question and what the options are on the ballot.

The second referendum campaign itself would take a minimum of 10 weeks, as set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. This is a strict law, and the time period couldn’t be shortened.

That means that if Parliament did decide it wanted another referendum, there wouldn’t be time for it before 31 October. So it would need to ask the EU to extend the Halloween Brexit deadline – and that would be the third time the UK had requested more time.

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