In Brief

Would Brexiteers boycott a second referendum?

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage says he would abstain if option were Theresa May’s deal vs. Remain

Nigel Farage has said he would boycott a second Brexit referendum if the only option was between Remain and Theresa May’s compromise deal.

Campaigners for a ‘People’s Vote’ have been given a major boost after Labour announced it would support another public vote if the party’s preferred Brexit plan is defeated this week.

However, The Independent reports that “splits emerged within hours of his announcement,” after anonymous sources briefed that the shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry “misspoke” when she said the referendum was likely to be between the prime minister’s deal and staying in the EU - a claim she denied.

Farage told Sky News “it would be an outrage” if Remain were on the ballot, while fellow Brexiteer MEP Daniel Hannan said he would have “no option” but to boycott a second referendum if the choices were only Theresa May’s deal or staying in the EU.

“You told us last time that it was final and binding, we have voted, that was our view and we are not going to dignify this kind of farce with our participation,” he told the Daily Express.

However, Farage, who has repeatedly said Leave would win by a bigger margin than 2016 in the event of another vote, did leave the door open to campaigning in a second referendum if no deal was one option put to the people, adding “if we are forced into this, it would have to be Remain or a clean Leave.”

The big question for Leave supporters is what would happen if they did orchestrate a successful boycott.

Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph says if the campaign managed to halve the referendum turnout to “well below 40% of the total eligible” then “Parliament could not pretend it had a mandate to act on the result. The 2016 result would stand.”

Others are less sure. Speaking to Daniel Hannan, talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer asked if there was “a deliberate attempt to organise a boycott” and the turnout dropped to 30 or 40% “that would send a different message but nevertheless still be legally binding, would it not?”

“The thing is, boycotting the second referendum would take a bad situation and make it even worse,” writes Graeme Shimmin on Quora.

“There would be no democratic resolution of the situation. The divisiveness would get even worse. It would be moving even further from rational debate and even further towards tribalism, hatred and anti-democratic methods like civil disobedience, ‘direct action’ and even rioting or terrorism,” he said.

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