700,000 march in biggest Brexit protest

Feeling blue: Tens of thousands marched in a Brexit protest last June.

Should there be a second referendum? On October 20, thousands marched in London to demand a people’s vote on Brexit. Support for the cause is growing as talks reach a crucial phase.

One hundred and sixty-one days and counting. Britain’s departure from the European Union is approaching fast, yet much uncertainty remains. Can Britain and the EU strike a deal? If so, how would the agreement work? What will happen when Brexit day finally comes?

On October 20, an estimated 700,000 protesters in London demanded that the public have the final say on whether Brexit happens at all.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan addressed protesters. “The government is taking us towards either a bad Brexit deal, or worse still, no deal at all,” he said. “Both these scenarios are a million miles from what was promised. People didn’t vote to make themselves poorer, to damage our NHS or to put jobs at risk.”

His solution? A second referendum. Any deal obtained by the government should be put to a vote, he argues, giving the public a chance to reject Brexit and stay in the EU.

Known as a “people’s vote”, the proposal is extremely divisive.

“People voted clearly to leave the European Union,” Michael Gove has previously argued. “Sadiq is essentially saying ‘Stop, let’s delay that whole process, let's throw it into chaos’… That would be a profound mistake.” Prime Minister Theresa May called a second vote a “gross betrayal of our democracy.”

The public is also split. A July poll found that 42% of Britons support a second referendum on Brexit, while 40% do not. With just months until Brexit, debate surrounding a second vote is likely to increase.

Right now, however, the public does not have a deal to vote on as May is yet to strike a withdrawal agreement with European officials.

Once a deal is struck with the EU, it will then have to pass a vote in Parliament. Some predict this will be the bloodiest battle yet. Reports suggest that 80 rebel Conservative MPs will vote down May’s proposed Brexit plan.

Should the public be given a second referendum on Brexit?

Going in circles

Absolutely not, some argue. Leave won by 1,269,501 votes — a decisive decision which must be honoured. Another referendum would betray millions of voters and cause inestimable damage to our democracy for years to come. Furthermore, nobody can agree on what a second referendum would actually ask. Confusion and resentment are the only outcomes, not certainty.

Things have changed since the first vote, others respond. Brexit was sold to the British people on false promises and half-truths. Once a deal is proposed and we know what Brexit will entail, voters can make a more informed choice. Brexit is the biggest development in modern British history — the people deserve a final say.

You Decide

  1. Should there be a second referendum?
  2. Is Brexit a good thing or bad thing?


  1. In one minute write down all the words that you associate with the term “Brexit”. As a class, write your ideas on the board. Are most of the words positive or negative? Why? As young people, do you feel excluded from the Brexit debate?
  2. Read the piece in The Conversation by following the link in Become An Expert — it presents four opposing viewpoints on the prospect of a second referendum. Which writer do you think is the most convincing? Why? How do they use language effectively? What language techniques can you find in their writing?

Some People Say...

“I’ve been clear that Brexit means Brexit.”

Theresa May

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Several high profile Conservative and Labour politicians support a second referendum, including Justine Greening and Chuka Umunna, but the cause does not currently have majority support among MPs.
What do we not know?
Exactly how a second referendum would be triggered. It could happen if Theresa May fails to pass her Brexit plan through Parliament — something which could also trigger a general election. Furthermore, it would be difficult to arrange a new referendum in time for Brexit day on March 29, 2019. Michel Barnier has said the EU could extend the Article 50 deadline to accommodate a second vote.

Word Watch

Brexit day
Britain is due to leave the EU on Friday, March 29, 2019. If no deal is struck, the UK faces a “cliff-edge” Brexit, in which the country will abruptly cease its agreements with the EU. Some fear this could cause extensive disruption in areas such as food supply, air travel and medicine.
A further complication is disagreements over what options voters would actually be given. Some support a vote with two options: accepting a proposed deal with the EU, or voting to follow a “no deal” path. Others want a third option added: reversing Brexit altogether and staying in the EU.
By YouGov.
Withdrawal agreement
Theresa May’s proposed agreement is known as the Chequers Plan. Its policy of ending free movement into the UK is likely to be rejected by EU officials. Some Brexiteers have slammed the plan for keeping Britain tied too closely to the bloc.

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