Bregrets? We’ve had a few, but then again ….

At first sight the notion of a second Brexit referendum in the UK seems  such a political non-runner that it is hardly worth discussing. Credibility is not enhanced when it is championed by two ex-prime ministers, one forgotten but not gone and the other utterly discredited. Yet on closer examination the June 24 vote does not look as rock-solid as it once did. An opinion poll which is being taken seriously by that most serious of journals, The Economist, shows that while just 1% of Remain voters regret having voted the way they did, no less than 6% of Leave voters do. Their numbers are greater than the Leave margin of victory. Intriguingly, among Leave voters who thought the Remain side would actually win the Begretters amount to around 10%. It is difficult to imagine circumstances in which these people would vote the other way a second time around, but it is not impossible. If as expected next week’s Supreme Court ruling forces a parliamentary vote on Brexit, one possible outcome is a quick general election. However, the majority of MPs who oppose Brexit but who saw the flag-wrapped protesters outside Westminster last week will not want to contest selection conventions or an election on the Brexit issue. A more likely outcome is that MPs will require the Prime Minister to negotiate divorce terms with Brussels and come back to lay the terms she won before the Commons in 2019. That would probably suit Theresa May who has a country to run in the meantime, as it would turn a constantly threatening civil war into a frozen conflict. When she does come back with a deal, we can be pretty sure it is not going to be a good one for Britain. When Parliament debates it, the same pro-EU MPs will still be worrying about selection conventions and elections, so they are quite likely not to have the stomach for walking through the lobbies on the deal. Sending it back to the voters would be a bloodless way out for them.