In the context of a 2nd Brexit referendum discussion

Peter Kyle Labour, Hove

Last week, 268 Members voted for the principle of a confirmatory ballot—the largest number of votes for any alternative Brexit proposition up to that point. The principle has effectively been used twice in the past 20 years to solve complex, divisive issues.

The first occasion was on the Belfast or Good Friday agreement. Many people, institutions and organisations were asked to give a lot to cement the deal, but they gained a lot together despite sections of Northern Irish society strongly rejecting it. The Good Friday agreement was put to a confirmatory ballot that confirmed the deal and led to a decisive end to the arduous process and a peace that has endured to this day. I do not want to risk undoing those gains, which is another reason why we need to unlock our politics. [...]

The second occasion was the alternative vote referendum in 2011. [...]

Was the word "confirmatory" used to refer to the Good Friday referendum at the time of its passing? (Not necessarily in law, but press or public debates etc.) Or is this a retrofitting of the "confirmatory" term?


It was not.

In Northern Ireland, all parties agreed on the final outcome. "Should there be peace on the island of Ireland" but the details of the deal that would allow this were complex and required compromise. There was, therefore no need for a referendum on "do you want peace?" Instead the parties produced a complete deal (the Good Friday Agreement) and then there was a referendum in both the North and the Republic on whether the agreement should be implemented.

In the matter of the UK's membership of the EU the final outcome is the matter of issue. "Should the UK be a member of the EU?". This matter of principle was put to to a referendum. The critical distinction is whether the matter of principle is disputed or not. It would have been politiclly impossible for the UK to have invoked article 50 and negotiated to leave the EU without a referendum. It was quite possible for the UK to have negotiated a peace agreement with Ireland and the Northern Irish parties without an initial referendum.

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