A reply to constituents concerned about Brexit and wanting a second referendum

Thank you for your email concerning Brexit options. Trying to represent any constituency when opinions are so divided on this important matter is not easy. Clearly an MP has to express one view and cast one vote in any matter to be settled, whilst his constituents have a range of views. In order to come to a judgement I take the following things into account


  1. The promises I made in my own Manifesto to my voters at the last General Election, and the promises made by my party in that Election unless I expressly disagreed with them at the time
  2. The recommended course of action laid down by the Conservative whip. People elected me to support a Conservative government, so I normally vote with that government. They also voted me in to exercise some independent judgement, which I am willing to do when I think that government is wrong.
  3. The balance of opinion within my constituency, judged from my email box, website contributions and my conversations with constituents. I often reinforce this by announcing a consultation and encourage people to write in. I also look at national opinion polling which often reflects changes of moods in Wokingham.
  4.  My judgement of the issue based on experience and knowledge, with a mind to what will be the best outcome for constituents


I do not take into account my own interests, which are irrelevant when exercising the power of voice and vote held as MP, which is held on behalf of the community I represent.


There are now various options being proposed as to how to proceed with the EU. The immediate question relates to Mrs May’s draft Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. I have consulted very widely on this and also have made my own judgement about the wider interest of Wokingham and the nation. It is clear that this Agreement does not suit Leave voters, who do not think it represents what they voted for, nor does it suit a substantial number of Remain voters who rightly worry about leaving us without vote and voice in the EU whilst being partially in it. I therefore oppose this Agreement. Until the government either rejects this Agreement or puts it to a vote in the Commons, it will not be possible for the government to explore other options on how to proceed or for Parliament to vote on such options backed up by government legislation to enact them.


I therefore intend to continue to argue that we need to vote down the Withdrawal Agreement soon, to enable us to think of other ways forward. The Conservative party and the Prime Minister do not favour a second referendum, and we did not include any such proposal in our Manifesto. In order to understand the case for one better I would appreciate it if you could tell me what the question should be in any such vote. It does not seem to me to be much point in putting Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement to a public vote when it looks as if it is opposed by a large majority of MPs. If we had a referendum on Mrs May’s Agreement or staying in Leave voters would feel their option was excluded, and if Mrs May’s Agreement won there would still be difficulties in getting it through the Commons unless Labour then agreed to back it. If we had a re run of Leave or Remain the vote would not necessarily resolve the Parliamentary logjam created by the last referendum on that topic and would lead to demands for a third referendum were Leave to lose.


There are no easy answers when Parliament remains so divided on this issue.




  1. Frazer I Broomby
    December 16, 2018

    Such an important decision should ONLY be made by balancing indisputed, non-biased facts.
    Here we are 24 months later & still no wiser. EU stance is appalling, their future plans are EXTREMELY unattractive BUT we need a UK selfish decision, shame we have no FACTS.

    1. Elaine williams
      December 16, 2018

      The facts have been there. Plain for all to see, for the last 40 years, of being in the union. 40 years of abysmal treatment and abhorrent rules that have led to the detriment of our once great nation….They’re all the facts needed.

      1. Liza
        December 16, 2018

        I agree with you Elaine ..This is what I’ve been saying we have the measure of the EU after 40 years … the picture isn’t pretty! There should be no New referendum its nonsense!

        1. RICHARD J MOORE
          December 17, 2018

          which ‘abhorrent’ laws dont you like ? where are your facts ? heres one for you :
          Official EU voting records show that the British government has voted ‘No’ to laws passed at EU level on 56 occasions, abstained 70 times, and voted ‘Yes’ 2,466 times since 1999.
          In other words, we have been on the “winning side” 95% of the time, abstained 3% of the time, and were on the losing side 2%.

  2. Pete Else
    December 16, 2018

    On the contrary there is a very easy answer Mr Ewdwood. The referendum voted to leave. An election was fought on the basis of a promise to leave. MPs should carry out that promise. If an acceptable agreement cannot be reached with Brussels then we leave without an agreement, which in my opinion is the best outcome anyway. Quite clearly the EU is hoping that this awful agreement, sponsored by the even more awful Mrs May, will so much confusion and dissent that we will decide to stay in and continue subsidising their bureaucratic disaster. If MPs were actually to represent the people (unlikely thought that is) they would get rid of May and elect a pro Brexit leader to prepare to leave without an agreement. The problem with this extremely simple answer is that MPs do not represent the people and wish to frustrate the Brexit vote. The problem is with UK politicians not Brussels or legalities or whatever other excuse they come up with.

    1. David
      December 19, 2018

      I agree the problem is with UK politicians but the exit / remain split in the country means that a pro-Brexit leader would not have strong support in the country, which will be deeply problematic for a pro-Brexit leader in the next election. For politicians to have promised such a major change with such weak support was madness.

  3. Dioclese
    December 16, 2018

    We already voted Leave/Remain so in my opinion there can be no case for asking that question again.

    The question should be Leave under the WA / Leave with no deal
    There is a concerted effort at the moment for a three option vote that includes Remain / WA / No deal

    This is a blatent attempt to split the leave vote so that remain gets the biggest number of votes. You simply cannot have a three option referendum and it is doubtful if this would breach electoral rules isn’t it?

    1. Ken Higman
      December 18, 2018

      What electoral rules would it break? This article by the Institue of Government does not reference any such rules. It also sets out in simple terms how a 3 way vote would not split the leave vote.


  4. salty
    December 16, 2018

    If there was any respect for a true democracy this would not be happening, we would of simply left on WTO rules and then arranged trade deals with the EU, this is a complete hijack of democracy by the Pro EU supporters who fail to accept and respect a democratic vote, If they succeed in their plot to overthrow the leave vote, then democracy has failed us all.

  5. Ken Higman
    December 16, 2018

    Dear John,

    As a Wokingham constituent and a Remain voter I would like to thank you for your recent diary entry ( http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2018/12/16/a-reply-to-constituents-concerned-about-brexit-and-wanting-a-second-referendum/DECEMBER 16, 2018) where you discuss the potential of a second referendum and ask us to “tell me what the question should be in any such vote”.

    Clearly Parliament are at an impasse:
    – There is no parliamentary majority for Mrs Mays withdrawal agreement.
    – There is no parliamentary majority for a No deal brexit.
    – There is no parliamentary majority for Remain.

    If parliament cannot agree on the most critical constitutional decision of our lifetimes then there really are only two courses of action:

    1. Disband the government and call a general election.
    2. Give the decision back to the people to get a clear mandate.

    I do not believe that a new government of any party or even a coalition could get a significantly different or better deal. Both the major political parties have the same impossible balancing act, with the same internal party politics and electoral pressures to deal with. Add to this, both the EU and the UK have a number of redlines that appear to create a circle that cannot be squared. A Mrs May style compromise deal that pleases no-one but is least offensive to many is an almost inevitable outcome.

    A general election would also require a significant extension of the negotiating period, and frankly I think the one thing that all sides can agree on is that enough time, money and effort has already been wasted on this.

    So for clarity, if a general election is not the right answer and the current government cannot get an agreed deal through parliament then the only way for the country to move forward is through a second referendum.

    To your question on “what the question should be”, I believe that the only fair referendum on this needs to include the following 3 options.

    1. The Withdrawal Agreement as negotiated by the Conservative Government.

    The Conservative government have spent two years negotiating “the best possible deal available” for exiting the EU. It would be wrong to discard it at this point. For good or bad, what it does is provide an actual basis for comparison against the other options.

    During the referendum the Leave campaign were able to present every version of leave as a possible option allowing them to appeal to as broad a base as possible. I have no doubt that all of the 17.4 million voters who voted leave knew exactly what they were voting for as an individual. Unfortunately and evidentially there was no consensus amongst these individuals. The leave vote was a coalition of undefined ideas, The Conservative withdrawal agreement gives absolute clarity on what leave looks like and should be included on the ballot.

    2. Remain / ExitBrexit

    Given how close the original vote was, given the fact that, as mentioned above the leave campaign was a coalition of the undefined, the option to remain must be included. Conversely to the leave coalition, the 48% who voted were all clearly aligned on a single outcome, namely staying in the EU. This unity has not wavered, and a significant number of polls and demographic assessments suggest that this is now a preferred option by many. The option to remain must be included on the ballot.

    3. Hard Brexit / leave with no deal

    As a remainer this is clearly not my preferred option, but for it to be left off the ballot paper (as some have suggested) would be scandalous. Clearly there is a large proportion of the population who support this option and to ignore them would simply be wrong. If the country voted for a hard Brexit then politicians would have the mandate they need to push it through parliament.

    The referendum options laid out in your diary entry both appear to pitch two options in a head to head vote and you are right to point out that by doing so many voters would feel excluded, the only way to get past this logjam is to allow the country to vote on all 3 of the available options (however unpalatable you or I may find some of them). This could be done on a First Past The Post or Alternative Vote basis.

    The only way to bring the country together is to allow all three options to be heard and voted on. This allows the hard brexiteers, soft brexiteers and remainers all to have a final say on the future of this country on options that, unlike the first referendum are now clearly defined.

    I thank you for canvassing opinion on this matter of national importance from those that you represent on a local level and hope that the above is useful in your deliberations.

    1. Alan Jutson
      December 16, 2018


      I am also a Wokingham constituent

      You have an interesting view on what the Questions should be, should another referendum be granted.
      I would respectfully suggest that splitting the various leave votes three ways certainly helps the remain cause you support !

      But you seem to forget that we have one option on the table which has already been agreed by Parliament, which I believe is already on the statute book.

      That default position as I understand it (and I am no expert), is that we leave on WTO terms should we not get a deal, or I guess, agree on a deal.

      Thus the situation you suggest has already been resolved by Parliament by default.

      Some politicians may not like it, some of the population may not like it, but to my knowledge this option has never been debated properly, either in the media or in Parliament.

      There is an argument that either 94% or 98% of world/International trade is conducted under such terms by 164 Countries, see WTO website for further info.

      The Eu is already a member, so how could they refuse to trade on such terms.

      In the event of a dispute the WTO already has arbitration systems set up which incidentally also includes fishing.

      If we choose that form for our future, we can set our own tariffs at a level of our choice, and at the same time keep all of the funds raised instead of sending 80% of the present income to Brussels, as well as our annual contributions.

      We have a first past the post system in operation for general elections, so no matter how small the margin of victory by any party, they govern.
      The referendum was put in place by politicians after much debate.
      The question was agreed by politicians after much debate.
      The rules were set by politicians after much debate.
      Politicians told us the vote was binding, and would be once in a lifetime.
      So why does anyone now complain, especially politicians, about the result now, when they set all of the rules.

      The complete disconnect is between Parliament and the People, the people want one thing, Politicians want another, this is a potentially dangerous situation for our fragile democracy.

      Let us hope common sense prevails.

      A second referendum so soon after the last one would be an added disaster, especially when the present situation has been brought about by frustrated remainers, who still cannot get over the result.

      The peoples vote has been taken, 34,000, 000 PEOPLE voted, and the first past the post system recorded that Leave won by over 1,000,000 votes.

      1. Ken Higman
        December 17, 2018

        Hi Alan,

        I have tried to respond to your post as briefly as possible and focussed on the specific relevant points (I hope).

        With regards my proposed questions “splitting the Leave vote” this was not my intention and is not the case under an alternative vote system. Whichever vote won would command over 50% of either the first or second choice votes. Hopefully, this would ease your concerns on this matter.

        I have not forgotten that the default position is to leave on WTO terms. I included it within the options for a second referendum. You are correct that this has been resolved by parliament by default. You are also correct in your assertion that leaving on a no deal has never been properly debated by Parliament, it was also not what the Leave campaign presented as their pr ferried option and therefore it has no mandate from the people. It is a real option considered by some to be the preferred approach (and as such must be on any ballot), but critically at this stage not by a majority of MPs and unfortunately for you, we simply do not know if it supported by the majority of Leave voters, let alone the wider population.

        With regards the benefits or not of the WTO (described by a former director of the WTO as the fourth division compared to the EU premier league), I am not here to discuss the merits and demerits of a hard Brexit, I think we have very different views on that. I came here specifically because Mr Redwood asked what we believe should be asked in a second referendum. I note that you didn’t put anything forward in your post, I would be interested in your view.

        You say that “the people want one thing, Politicians want another”. I disagree, there is clearly not a single consensus among the people for what they want.
        I fully accept that Leave won the referendum, what I do not accept is that Leave represented a single clear path of action. This is evidenced both in the campaign where leavers spoke of everything from Norway to EFTA to Canada plus to WTO, click on this to see Leave campaigners talking about how we could stay in the single market as an example ( https://youtu.be/0xGt3QmRSZY) . It continues to be evidenced by the fact that no leave supporting MP is able to articulate what course of action, other than a no deal they would support.

        And before anyone jumps on me to say “I knew exactly what I was voting for”. I am not questioning that. I am sure you all individually knew exactly what outcome you wanted. What you did not know, could not know, because the Leave campaign itself did not know, was if there was any consensus on what the 17.4 million disparate voices were voting for. It is not the remain campaign splitting the Leave vote as you put it, the Leave campaign was already a collection of different ideas. This is why a second referendum is required.

        Regarding first past the post, and the fact that parliament set the terms of the referendum, I am not and have not questioned this, so not sure how to respond, other than to say I like to think that I am not complaining, rather that I am campaigning.

        Best regards

        1. Alan Jutson
          December 18, 2018


          Thanks for your response.

          I will keep my comment short.

          I simply believe Leave means leave, and for us to become a sovereign self Governing Nation State again, and I think the majority who voted leave believe in that concept.

          Remain is not a simple choice it appears to be either, as remaining in the EU does not keep things as they are at the moment, far from it, as it further reduces the power of Nation States as time passes.

          Thus those Countries in the Euro Zone become the EU priority, and we are outside of the Eurozone, at least at the moment.

          Can I suggest you read the Lisbon Treaty (if you have not done so already) which the UK Government has already signed us up to, as its full power has yet to come into force and be realised.
          The Five Presidents Report circulated by the EU before the referendum which outlines their idea of the future after 2020 for the next 10-15 years.
          The Five Presidents Report at 397 pages is shorter than the withdrawal surrender document, and makes quite frightening reading !
          More political integration, No Nation States, a single Budget for all, a European Army, etc etc etc.
          Thus remain is not an option either, because the EU is not about to remain as it is.

          So the most simple question of all probably is:

          Do you wish to be governed by the EU Yes or NO

          Do you wish to be governed by an elected UK Parliament Yes or NO

  6. Bob Wade
    December 16, 2018

    The question on any referendum should be
    1 do you wish to accept the agreement
    2. Do you wish to leave with no deal

    Under no circumstances should we be asked if we wish to remain. That question has already been answered.

  7. Tim Fletcher
    December 16, 2018

    Just one vote please when it’s clear what it is we’re voting for. At the moment there are 4/5 Leave options (Norway, Canada, managed no deal, no deal WTO rules, May’s deal). 2.5 years on and we still have no idea what Leave means. It always was a far too complex subject for a referendum. It is for just such complex problems that we have a representative democracy.

    1. Helen Smith
      December 16, 2018

      Not complicated at all, as a Leave voter I always understood exactly what the issue was/is, that’s why I voted Leave

      1. David
        December 19, 2018

        Do all the other leave voters have the same understanding?

  8. Bobe
    December 16, 2018

    We should simply leave. Britain can rule itself again far from the Brussels bureaucrats .

  9. Androcles
    December 16, 2018

    It seems to me that an MP in a leave voting constituency who pledged to “respect the referendum result” but personally wants to remain – as the majority are in the Commons – has no incentive to agree to any deal if “no deal” is not an option. They could go on proposing Norway plus or whatever safe in the knowledge that there wasn’t a majority for it and then say “I am not a fan of referendums but with the Commons gridlocked I think it is the only option”. That is presumably why we keep being told that no deal would be a catastrophe. The ERG should support Mrs May’s deal and when it is rejected by the Commons say that she must honour the 29 March leaving date as the Commons will find an excuse for rejecting any deal.

  10. BOF
    December 16, 2018

    It is not very complicated.
    The referendum bill was voted through Parliament by a very large majority,
    Government gave the electorate the choice and we voted leave.
    Parliament voted to trigger article 50 to leave the EU by a very large majority.
    In last year’s general election over 80% of the electorate voted for parties that promised in their manifestos that we would leave the SM and CU.
    Parliament passed in to law the Withdrawal Act to leave the EU in its entirety.
    Does Parliament (or the Government) now wish to renege on manifesto promises? Or repeal legislation it has passed?
    It seems to me that would be a very dangerous course of action And anti democratic.

    1. BOF
      December 16, 2018

      Answer to the above.

      Parliament should fulfil its promises as well as that which it has legislated for and we should leave the EU in its entirety on 29/3/19 at 23.00hrs.

  11. Ian
    December 17, 2018

    I think the easiest answer to this problem of trying to Leave.
    Get rid of May and her flaky hangers on.
    Put only Brexiteers in there place

    Simply carry out just exactly what was in the Manifesto, nothing less than that.
    The total waste of time as May continues to flog a dead horse, it is not going to happen .
    That is her game.

    We are going no where in a hurry.

    Someone please grab that wheel, take us out now on WTO

    Just get us out Please

    December 17, 2018

    The correct course of action for Goverment is to act responsibly for the nation and repeal Article 50. There is no Brexit agreement that can be agreed upon. We now know that leaving will leave us all a lot worse off rather then better, which is what the Brexiters told us. 9% worse off on WTO. Even Rees Mogg admits it will take 50 years to recover.

    1. Alan Jutson
      December 17, 2018


      Best of Luck to any politician who tells 17,400,000 people that their decision and vote counts for nothing, after promising to enact the result it before they voted.

      Perhaps you should read the Five Presidents report about what the EU plan in the next 10-15 years for all Member Countries before you ask for us to Remain, because the EU is not standing still.

        December 18, 2018

        Ive just read the conclusions. Were not even in the single currency which this report primarily addresses. Also :
        ” Insolvency law, company law and property rights – are mentioned by the Five Presidents as part of the creation of a capital markets union, which is being pushed by our own commissioner, Jonathan Hill. To the extent that the EU embraces capital markets, the City – and by extension, London and the UK as a whole – will be the big winner.”

        1. Alan Jutson
          December 18, 2018


          “We are not in the single currency”

          Exactly so the EU moves on without us, but we still have to obey all of the rules made to fit the Eurozone, but still pay a huge slice of the money.
          No Veto over anything, as all votes are by a majority

      2. Ken Higman
        December 18, 2018

        This government have spent the last 2 years enacting the result of the referendum through negotiating a leave deal with the EU. This deal is now on the table ready for govt. to ratify. The problem is, the leave campaign was undefined in terms of what leave meant, there is no appetite for the deal and no mandate for the no deal alternative. Therefore, the only logical step is to put all availiabke options back to the people.

        1. Alan Jutson
          December 18, 2018

          Sorry Ken

          It is Remainers who have been negotiating our withdrawal from the EU, under the control of Mrs May.
          The Cabinet themselves are made up of remainers with a ratio of 3 to.1
          Hence the diabolical result we now have.

          Please do not blame leavers, when it is the remainers who have been in control of everything so far !

          1. RICHARD J MOORE
            December 19, 2018

            The brexiters we’re put in charge of negotiating, failed miserably and quit. David Davies, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab. All failures who John Redwood supports. They all quit because they knew they were never going to succeed and they know would be blamed for the resulting catastrophic leave with no deal. They will ruin the nation for their own personal gain.

          2. Alan Jutson
            December 19, 2018

            Oh dear Richard

            David Davis and Dominic Raab were working under the instructions of Mrs May, or at least they thought they were until it was revealed that Mrs May had been working on another plan behind their backs, which has now been given the name the Chequers or Surrender deal, whichever you would like to call it !.

            Every time David Davis stood his ground Mrs May cut his feet away and offered the EU more and more money until it is where we are now at £39 Billion, plus lots of add ons for the so called transition arrangement, and our EU Banking deposits.
            Thus Brexiters have never been in charge of anything to date.

            They resigned because they were being used and abused, and its what any reasonable person would have done in the circumstances.

      3. David
        December 19, 2018

        UK Politicians routinely ignore tens of millions of voters, it is the nature of our adversarial politics and first past the post electoral system.

        1. RICHARD J MOORE
          December 20, 2018

          Oh Dear Alan
          This is money we OWE. In 2014, the UK (CONSERVATIVE) government made a commitment with other EU member states to a 7 year EU financial programme. The money is due under international law.
          This is one reason why we should not have even been given a vote as early as 2016, and never have set leaving date for 2019.
          Another of course is the Belfast Agreement which brought about peace in Ireland. Brexit also breaks that agreement.
          Brexiters ‘Used and Abused’ – that’s frankly ridiculous.
          It is they who are trying to abuse the EU and shame us by wanting to leave the party after ordering a round of drinks and then not paying.

          1. Alan Jutson
            December 21, 2018


            Our own House of Lords says we do not owe a penny, and it is stuffed full of lawyers, barristers and ex Ministers..

            Like wise when we joined in 1972 did we get a payment holiday for a couple of years or did we start to pay immediately, even though we never took part in any vote on the programmes which were running or planned at the time.
            To use your phrase:
            The EU ordered the drinks for all of themselves, but want us to pay when we are not even going to be present.

            They cannot have it both ways, although they are trying hard.

  13. Andy Baldwin
    December 18, 2018

    Dear Mr Redwood,
    It seems to me that Parliament and the public communication about what it does is not set up to deal effectively with negotiations and crises. Seeing the PM castigated for trying her best to come up with an acceptable compromise is unfortunate and unnecessary. If any organisational management entity is faced with difficulties like this Brexit situation (i.e. many different options and views) it has a well documented way of proceeding to reach a unified viewpoint. That is, take each of the options (which includes the current deal when all possible backstop clarifications have been made). Set out their pros and cons across a set of key criteria ( short term and long term impact assessments to those criteria which affect most people including economy & jobs with fair and equitable weighting). Get MP’s to debate these and then vote their scores for each option across the criteria and hence determine a prioritised set of options. Then put these to the MP’s and see how they vote – i.e. make them all accountable rather than just criticising and objecting to what seems like sensible government policy. If they can’t choose to support the result(rather than party political lines) it has to go to the people. I just wish MP’s would do their job rather than squabble about something so important. Regarding your own position, assuming the backstop clarifications when finally negotiated can become acceptable, why don’t you support the government by helping to forge an agreement which could become a respectable compromise with the EU (with whom, at least in the short to medium term we expect to continue a major trading relationship)?

    Kind Regards,
    Andy Baldwin (constituent)

    Reply Thank you for your sdvice. The problem with the Withdrawal Agreement is it settles all the things the EU wants and none of the things the UK wants for the future partnership. It leaves the difficult negotiations for afterwards, whilst removing most of our leverage. The Conservative Manifesto rightly said we needed to negotiate the future arrangements and withdrawal together. I want the PM to try again.

      December 19, 2018

      Dear Mr Redwood
      Your party has had 2 years to negotiate future arrangements. The EU has given all they are going to give, quite rightly , in supporting the remaining 27 countries.
      The deal is poor yes, but as good as its going to get in leaving the EU.
      By far and away the best option is to remain with our partners in the EU and continue to work alongside them. You should be representing the 57% of your constituents who voted to remain. Your party now needs to repeal Article 50 or give the public another vote, now we know we were lied to so badly, and understand better the disastrous consequences to the poorest of the country, especially if we crash out with no deal negotiated.

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