The People’s Vote campaign for a referendum on the final Brexit deal was boosted yesterday by a £1million donation.
But a Downing Street source insisted: “We completely rule out any second referendum.”
The pitfalls involved in such a vote were spelt out in a report published today MONDAY by the Institute for Government.
The thinktank, whose aim is to make government more effective, published its analysis of different ways in which the current phase of Brexit negotiations could play out.
They include Theresa May agreeing a deal with the EU as early as October and getting it through Parliament ahead of leaving day, next March 29.
Other scenarios are Parliament rejecting her deal and either settling for a no-deal exit or sending her back to Brussels for more talks.
Mrs May herself could declare it impossible to strike a deal so Britain leaves without one, or she might not get a deal but Parliament sends her back to negotiations rather than quit without agreement.
The report says it is possible the Government or Parliament could order another referendum for voters to break a deadlock.
But it notes: “The mechanics of referendums are far from easy.”
Problems include that the UK does not have a comprehensive blueprint for referendums, so details have to be decided each time – probably sparking bitter political skirmishes on issues like timing and who should have a vote.
“Even more problematic, what would the referendum be about?” the authors ask.
Tory former Cabinet minister Justine Greening has suggested a three-question referendum with the choice of leaving the EU with no deal, leaving on the PM’s deal, or staying in the EU.
But the Institute said this raised timing issues.
The UK is only guaranteed staying in on its current terms if it withdraws its Article 50 leaving application by March 29.
Only an outline withdrawal agreement could be made by March and some details of a long-term deal would have to be hammered out afterwards – which the report said could see MPs agitating to have different versions of Brexit on the ballot paper.
Meanwhile the Electoral Commission watchdog says six months are needed for a referendum to be well-conducted – which would probably mean the Government postponing exit day, which Mrs May has said she will not do.
The authors concluded: “In short, a Greening-style referendum on the timescale she appears to propose (before the UK formally leaves the EU) would only work if it produces a majority for Remain.
“It would not settle the issue for any other outcome.
“But it is not practical to ask people to vote on the arcane issues of the withdrawal agreement – which would come down to a fight about the ‘divorce bill’.
“So, in practice, unless there is a clearly emerging majority (which can survive a bitter referendum campaign) for Remain, a referendum would solve nothing.”