The most often-heard argument against a second vote on British membership of the EU is also the least plausible. By this account, revisiting the issue would be “divisive”. Old wounds would never close. Deal or no deal with Brussels, the sooner the barricades are thrown up across the Channel the sooner a spirit of national unity can be restored. This relies on the outlandish assumption that the 48% of Brits who voted in 2016 to remain part of the EU are now content to hum the English nationalists’ tunes. Those who saw the country’s fortunes as inextricably bound up with Europe are ready to shrug their shoulders at the prospect of a poorer, less secure, closed Britain. In the real world, revisiting the decision taken in 2016 would be divisive only in the sense that the Brexit vote was itself divisive. Plebiscites are exercises not in democracy but in crude majoritarianism. The institutions and norms of liberal democracy are there to protect the rights of minorities. Referendums afford...

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