There is a considerable number of MPs who support a confirmatory referendum on the deal. What legal options do these MPs have now? If there are several possible strategies they can pursue, which one is likely to be the most effective?


At the end of the day, a bill setting out the terms of a referendum must be passed by Parliament before a referendum can happen. With the original 2016 referendum, taking into account time for the Electoral Commission to test various forms of the question, that took several months.

If they wanted to go down this route, they can use similar processes that they have in the past (generally under Standing Order 24, which covers emergency debates) to introduce a bill that would require such a referendum.

It is also worth noting that we are, as of this writing, 11 days away from the UK's departure from the EU. While the UK Prime Minister has submitted a letter requesting an extension, there is no guarantee that the EU will agree to one. If they indeed decline to do so, then there is no way for a referendum to be organised before Britain's departure (apart from withdrawing the original withdrawal notice, i.e. "revoking Article 50").

  • Is it something that needs to be done before or after the vote on the deal? Or can it be done at any time? – michau Oct 20 '19 at 13:25
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    It would have to be done before the agreement comes into force (i.e. before the Withdrawal Agreement Bill finishes its path through Parliament). – Joe C Oct 20 '19 at 14:30
  • The 2016 referendum was a manifesto commitment, and as such, when the general election was held on that manifesto, the commitment obtained a mandate. There is no mandate for a "confirmatory referendum", and as such, it would be inconsistent to have a different rule when ostensibly asking the same question. In order to obtain a mandate for a "confurmatory referendum", the legitimate course of action is to campaign for it in a general election and win enough seats to proceed with it. The UK is not a direct democracy, it is a parliamentary one, which has been confirmed by recent legal proceedings – Rinky Stingpiece Oct 21 '19 at 1:28
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    @RinkyStingpiece While what you say may bring a sense of political legitimacy to it, it's not a technically required part of the process (which is the focus of this question). – Joe C Oct 21 '19 at 3:45
  • Well, the options are to amend a bill on withdrawal before October 31st, assuming the speaker allows the bill, and assuming the government proceeds with it following an amendment being successful. The timeline might be 22nd amendment proposed, then vote cancelled by 23rd. EU may decide to offer the extension by the 24th, and the government can wait until the 26th (saturday) to put it to a vote in parliament. Endgame could be a vote of NC on the 28th, and opposition have 2 days to form a coalition which must include the DUP. Tories have the legal right to trigger a second vote of NC on the 29th – Rinky Stingpiece Oct 21 '19 at 4:18

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