Fintan O'Toole: There is nothing undemocratic about voting again on Brexit

Second thoughts are the essence of democracy. The Brexit promised in 2016 has vanished so it is time to ask the people again

'If anyone had proposed in the run-up to June 2016 what Theresa May’s White Paper proposed this week, there would have been howls of derision from all sides.' Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

'If anyone had proposed in the run-up to June 2016 what Theresa May’s White Paper proposed this week, there would have been howls of derision from all sides.' Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The one thing standing between the British people and a way out of the shambles in which they find themselves is a misunderstanding of democracy. The exit from Brexit is by way of a second popular vote – anything less would pollute British politics for at least a generation with the toxic taint of betrayal.

But there is a reluctance to go back on the moment when the “people’s will” was expressed, the decisive day of June 23rd, 2016. It is, on the surface, a decent kind of hesitancy: the Brexit vote was an impressive exercise in mass democracy. Civilised politics depend crucially on the willingness of the beaten side to accept the results of a vote they have lost.

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