A second referendum on Brexit could actually happen

Justine Greening’s call for a second vote has been joined by many other voices, all emboldened now that the taboo topic is out in the open and the conversation about a new Brexit referendum is taking shape.

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Blindly committing to something, beyond the point you realise it’s going to do you harm, is not a clever strategy. Yet this is what the argument from the extreme dogmatists who believe in exit at any price are focused on of late. “We need to see this through because it’s what the people voted for” is now the primary defence of the destruction this government is inflicting on our nation.

Brexit Minister Dominic Raab said he hoped cooler heads would prevail.
Photograph: Peter Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images

Boy, oh, boy. We have reached a pretty pass. It has felt recently as though Brexit is chaos. Yet even within the wild chaos of Brexit it’s possible to see a structure. Every story has a trajectory, a narrative arc through which events unfold with great unpredictability and present the protagonists with surprising challenges and choices. Brexit is no different.

Robert McKee, Hollywood screenwriting guru, describes the “inciting incident” of any drama as the single event that sets in motion the ensuing chain of events, none of which would have happened without it and all of which happen with an inevitability that only becomes clear in the final act.

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This Brexit drama’s inciting incident was David Cameron’s gambit – that he could promise in his manifesto a referendum on Europe, thus fixing the division in his own party, but then never actually have to go through with it because it would be stymied by his Liberal Democrat partners in a hung parliament, a hung parliament that never came.

The first act of Brexit ended on the morning of 24 June 2016, with the stunning plot twist: Leave had actually won.

Brexit’s second act was this: how to solve the insoluble challenge that vote produced. It ended with another political gamble that seemed to offer a solution – Theresa May’s presidential campaign for a landslide majority. A landslide that – another shocking plot twist! – never came.

The third act has played out ever since and the curtain begins to fall with yet another fresh crisis: the visible implosion of the Tory party, the very thing the entire episode was designed to prevent – a delicious irony any screenwriter would relish.

So we are now, hopefully, entering the final act of this Brexit. It can go one of two ways.



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