With an election looming, what is the route to a Final Say referendum now?
If Boris Johnson fails to win a thumping majority, the prospect of a second referendum is very much alive, writes Lizzy Buchan
After several failed attempts, Boris Johnson appears to have finally secured his general election. Focus in Westminster is already shifting away from the prime minister’s Brexit deal, as the parties tool up for a gruelling prospect of a winter election campaign.
But Brexit still looms large over proceedings – and the prospect of a Final Say referendum could be boosted by the coming poll.
This parliament has repeatedly rejected attempts to attach a referendum to various bits of legislation, and despite shifting allegiances across all the parties, there has never been a clear majority for it.
This is the reason why the People’s Vote campaign has urged MPs to hold off from pushing a vote on a second referendum – as they knew the support was not there.
A new parliament might feel differently. If the Tories win a landslide victory, then Johnson will go for Brexit all guns blazing and hopes of second referendum will fade.
But under any other result, the prospect of a second referendum is still very much alive. A Labour-led coalition – or a Labour government with a majority – would most likely try to negotiate its own Brexit deal with the EU, with a focus on workers’ rights and regulations. The party has previously said it believes it could achieve this in three months.
If this happens, Jeremy Corbyn has promised to put a Labour Brexit deal to a public vote after pressure from senior figures to deliver a Final Say.
The SNP could back Labour but its support would come at a price, as the party will almost certainly want a commitment for a second independence referendum in exchange for propping up a Corbyn government.
If the Liberal Democrats win a significant number of MPs and fall in with Labour, the party will push to go further and scrap Brexit altogether.
Both the SNP and the Lib Dems see a pre-Brexit election as the best way to achieve their aim of revoking Article 50.
If the election results in a Conservative-led minority government, then fresh deadlock looms. But a confirmatory referendum is likely to remain an option for the government, as the price of getting a Brexit deal through the Commons.
It is also worth remembering that whatever happens at the ballot box, the picture will be further complicated by a whole new cast of characters in the Brexit drama.
Plenty of MPs who have played key roles have said they will not stand again – including Sir Oliver Letwin, Sir Vince Cable, Heidi Allen, Jo Johnson and Rory Stewart.
There is also a sizeable group of independent MPs who quit or were sacked by their parties – mostly over Brexit. These MPs may face an uphill battle to keep their seats, as their former parties are likely to throw the kitchen sink at ousting them.
Johnson will be praying for a thumping majority in order to “get Brexit done”, but it remains to be seen whether he can deliver, leaving the prospect for a Final Say vote very much on the table.