2nd Brexit Referendum - A betrayal of Democracy?

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The first BridgeEurope event, organized by the local chapter of Maastricht, was a great success. Students and participants discussed whether a second Brexit Referendum would be a betrayal to Democracy. Choosing a controversial topic for our first discussion event proved to be very successful as all participants had varying opinions which they were able to properly present to others.

Three main Topics

Despite the controversial nature of this topic, the discussion remained incredibly respectful, with people giving others opportunities to speak and respond to their own comments. Overall, the arguments centered around three themes:

  1. whether or not the public was properly informed about Brexit and its potential consequences before the vote…

  2. whether a second vote would be democratic..

  3. and whether or not a second referendum would result in a different outcome…

Referendums as “glorified opinion polls”?

Regarding the first theme, the discussion was largely focused on whether or not people were properly informed and whether or not, had they been informed, they should be trusted with a decision of this magnitude. As one participant noted, referendums can be seen as “glorified opinion polls”, questioning whether or not they should be binding.

No consensus was reached regarding potentially defining what it means to be ‘informed’. Regarding the second theme, opinions were split across two lines; those arguing for and those arguing against this statement. Those who believed that a second vote would not be a betrayal to democracy focused on arguments given in the first theme: that the consequences of Brexit were not clear and that therefore people could not have made informed decisions.

Are the British people aware of the consequences?

Furthermore, it was argued that even those in charge, including politicians, were equally unaware of these consequences. However, those who argued that a second referendum would, in fact, be a betrayal to democracy claimed that it could set a legal precedent from which the outcomes of other previously held referendums could be questioned.

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This could greatly undermine the power individuals have in democratic societies. Finally, the participants generally agreed that a second referendum would not result in a different outcome. The original vote was the manifestation of a British identity, and although facts might have changed, “people will still have the same identity which they have created for themselves”. 

Text: Femke Laauwen | Editing: Simon Mertens | Photos: Nora Berg