Brexit should be stopped. We can debate what the duties of a government are, but I’m fairly sure that it doesn’t include a direction to drive the bus over the edge of a cliff.
However, I’m not convinced that the way to do this is by another referendum. That would imply that if the referendum was to confirm the original decision, we should abide by the majority’s decision, and I do not accept that we should.
There were three obvious problems with the referendum in 2016, and all of those problems are still there. The first problem was that several million people were directly and immediately barred from voting. Those people included British citizens living in Europe, and European citizens living in Britain. There is no possible revision to the electorate which will not lead to one side or another crying ‘foul’.
The second problem was, as we now know, the combination of illegality and downright lies that characterised the campaign to Leave. There is no reason to suppose that the next campaign would be any cleaner.
The third problem would be true of any referendum. It is democratic to encourage people to express their views, and we have a convention that decisions are decided by majority rule. However, it is not democratic for any majority, ever, to deny rights to minorities. We should not tolerate a situation where half the population votes to extinguish the rights of the other half – and that, in effect, is what has happened.
When the government accepted the brief to negotiate exit from the European Union, their first responsibility – and the first responsibility of EU authorities on the other side – was to defend the fundamental rights of citizens. Both sides have a clear, unequivocal, treaty-based legal obligation to safeguard individual rights. Both sides have failed to do so.