Is there a legal reason or law(s) that prevents the United Kingdom from having another referendum on Brexit?

  • 5
    This is NOT a duplicate of that question. That one is a "why?" question, and this one is a "is it possible?" question.
    – JBentley
    Feb 22, 2019 at 14:40
  • Laws apply to people, not to countries. No law can prevent a state from doing anything. Feb 23, 2019 at 23:39

2 Answers 2


No. The United Kingdom can hold as many referendums on this subject as it likes, as often as it likes. Obviously there are technicalities and bureaucratic measures that have to be accounted for, and some logistical concerns, but there are no legal restrictions to holding the same referendum after the same referendum again and again.

  • 8
    The main impediments to having a referendum at present are the lack of time before the Brexit deadline, and the determination of the Prime Minister not to have one. Feb 22, 2019 at 12:03
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    +1 for addressing the actual question (the legality). I would suggest providing some explanation of the legal process (e.g. Parliamentary sovereignty, all that is required is an Act of parliament, etc.), but on the other hand this is not law.stackexchange, where the question really ought to have been posted.
    – JBentley
    Feb 22, 2019 at 13:21
  • @JohnDallman Another problem is that the country is not facing precisely two options. They could try to stay in the UK, they could accept the deal on the table, they could try to keep negotiating a better deal, they could exit with no deal. It's not clear how to handle such a case with a referendum. Feb 23, 2019 at 0:07
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    @DavidSchwartz When you want to choose between multiple options with some of them being similar, then ranked choice voting is a possible option.
    – Philipp
    Feb 23, 2019 at 0:33
  • @Philipp - The British Public historically haven't been all that keen on forms of PR
    – Valorum
    Feb 23, 2019 at 10:05

The main issue with taking another referendum is not so much that they cannot, but rather that it opens the door to being accused of trying again until you get the outcome you want.

Anyone who is loudly in favor of a new referendum can similarly be accused of not wanting to enact the will of the people (i.e. the outcome of the first referendum). You only need a minority of "leave" voters who get offended enough to cause a significant uproar over your so-called undemocratic behavior.

If you ask the people for input, they give you an answer, and then you don't want to follow their answer, what is the point of asking them again? Either you're going to get the same answer (which means the second referendum was pointless), or you're going to get the answer you wanted so you can do the thing (remain in the EU) that you think is better (which means referendums are pointless if you're going to do what you want anyway, instead of listening to the people).
In either case, the second referendum always leads to a situation that suggests that the second referendum is pointless.

In short, the UK currently finds itself in a position where they're headed in a direction that (a significant subset of) people do not want to go, but everyone's apprehensive of changing direction because they don't want the backlash that comes with being the one who proposed changing direction.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Feb 23, 2019 at 23:50
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    I downvoted this answer because it doesn't really answer the question. It is making an argument about whether or not the UK should have a second referendum, but not the actual question whether it is legally possible.
    – Philipp
    Feb 23, 2019 at 23:51
  • I upvoted this because the UK is legally prevented from doing a 2nd referendum if the only people who can legally call such a referendum are not willing to. And this answer explain why such legal option is not available in practice. Feb 24, 2019 at 13:45
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    You are very wrong. Actually, "voting again" is the basis of parliamentary democracy. That's why you go to vote again every few years, it's because people opinion changes all the time. Obviously, you cannot have referendums on the same topic too often (generally, 4-5 years would be acceptable) and you should probably have a good reason to believe that the opinion has shifted (e.g. non-official polls). Also, politicians should respect the old results until the next referendum actually happens. Any other argumentation is just about excuses.
    – Sulthan
    Feb 24, 2019 at 17:46
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    @Sulthan: You're comparing apples and oranges. Elections are known to be a repeating vote. Governmental elections specify the term of the election results (e.g. 5 years), but there was no term attached to the result of the Brexit referendum. There is no precedent for leaving/joining the EU to be on a fixed term basis and, if anything, the EU is incentivized to not facilitate that process for their own benefit (stability as opposed to fluctuation).
    – Flater
    Feb 24, 2019 at 20:42

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