Sleight of Hand: Beware of the Brexit Referendum Three-Card Trick

As voters consider the possibility of a second referendum, Byline Times has been warned that Prime Minister May have one last trick up her sleeve to get her unpopular deal through.

Amidst the growing clamour for a second referendum to break the parliamentary impasse around her Brexit deal, some Whitehall insiders are claiming that Theresa May could use a clever ‘three-card-trick’ to force her unpopular deal through.

But this time, it’s not MPs who will be played, but the general public.

The possible procedural device goes like this, according to sources well-placed in the corridors of power.

Clearly, Theresa May is having difficulty securing a majority in the House of Commons to back the withdrawal deal she had brokered since triggering Article 50.

Her deal is unpopular on both sides. For Brexiteers, the backstop over the Northern Ireland border means that the UK will be in an effective customs union for the foreseeable future, and will have to sign-up to regulations and laws over which it will have no control after exiting the EU.

Meanwhile, according to opinion polls, an increasing proportion of the electorate is now in favour of remaining in the EU, or at least the single market, which guarantees freedom of movement for EU citizens – though this is a red line Theresa May refuses to cross.

A second referendum is therefore increasingly on the cards to end the political deadlock.

The Non-Binary Choice

Most People’s Vote supporters assume that a second referendum would only happen once Theresa May’s Deal is finally rejected by Parliament, leaving a binary choice between a ‘No Deal’ crash-out of the EU and ‘Remain’.

However, insiders have pointed out that this may not be the case, and that the Prime Minister could smuggle her deal through the back door – even through a second referendum.

This would be achieved by having three options on any second referendum ballot – ‘Remain’, ‘No Deal’ or ‘May’s Deal’.

Currently, May’s Deal is the least attractive of all three options, according to opinion polls.

However, if a three-option ballot was run using the Alternative Vote system – in which voters have to express their order of preferences – May’s Deal would almost certainly win on second preference choices.

Though the Byline Times supports the principle of returning to the British public to ratify the various deals on offer, this could be a case of ‘careful what you wish for’. A second referendum run in this way could cause yet more division and mistrust in politics.

To put our cards on the table: the British Establishment has a long history of successfully gaming the British public. Beware of Theresa May’s poker face in the months to come.