1st December 2017
Here is some downbeat information for those who want a further referendum on Brexit before 29 March 2019, the day on which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union by automatic operation of law (unless something exceptional and not currently in view happens).
There will soon not be enough time to get legislation in place.
A further referendum, like the last one, would require its own legislation. There would also need to be a period for implementing regulations and (of course) for a campaign.
The legislation for the last referendum was the European Union Referendum Act 2015.
A look at its parliamentary stages shows that it took from May to December 2015 to get through parliament: seven months.
Straightforward implementing regulations were still being passed three months later in March 2016, and there was even an urgent regulation in June 2016.
The implementation and campaign period was a further three to six months before the June 2016 vote.
Taking the 2015 legislation as a precedent, it would require ten to thirteen months between commencing the legislative process and there being a vote.
Now factor that into the time available: a new Bill would need to be presented by April next year for a vote before 29 March 2019.
Of course: the process could be hastened. But the 2015 legislation was botched even at its (relatively) leisurely pace – the urgent need for voter registration regulations in June 2016 was one example.
Another example of botched legislation – which would have made the Miller litigation and the 2016 Notification Act unnecessary – would have been an explicit provision on whether the vote was binding or not.
Referendum legislation, like most most things to do with Brexit, should not be rushed.
And if the vote is to be on a “deal” then that deal is unlikely to be in final form until after April 2018 – so the legislative process would have to begin without anyone knowing what the referendum would be about in that respect.
There is the possibility that the exit date could be changed and the Article 50 period extended, though this is currently not being proposed on any official level.
But unless there is such an extension, soon time will run out for those who want to reverse Brexit by a referendum.
(My opposition to a further referendum is set out at this FT post. That opposition is primarily on basic constitutional principle. Not a great fan of referendums.)
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