To be or not to be, or to partially be, that is the question.
Now that it seems highly likely that there will be a second (or strictly speaking a third) referendum on membership of the EU, the burning question of the moment is just what will be the question that is asked. The original question was quite easy, in or out, but with a minimum of three options it becomes more difficult.
Suppose that we assume three distinct options:
- Reverse the previous decision and stay in the EU.
- Accept the current deal on offer which, we are assured by the negotiators who should know, is the only possible deal.
- Reject this deal, if nothing better can be negotiated in whatever extra time we are allowed then leave without a deal.
A simple three-way choice would be totally inadequate and unfair; suppose the vote went A 34%, B 33% and C 33%, A wins with the most votes and we stay in, despite two thirds of the electorate voting to leave. There is also no way of repackaging the three options as two just so a binary decision can be made; the only way to restrict the number of choices to two is to omit one option which would not, I am sure, be acceptable to most people.
The only viable solution is to ask two questions, which should not be too difficult for the voting public to manage, even if it makes the counting process a bit more complicated. It would make sense to ensure that, for the sake of continuity, a YES or NO to the first question should carry the same meaning as the last time.
These would be something like:
- Do you want to reverse the previous decision and REMAIN in the EU? YES or NO
- If the decision remains to leave, do you want to ACCEPT the current deal on offer, or try renegotiating even if this means leaving without any deal? YES or NO
It would also be important to accept a clear answer to just one of the questions as a valid vote.