Can the UK realistically back out of Brexit?
Note: this is not a question about whether Brexit is a good or bad thing. Keep answers impartial please.
It is quite obvious that the current British government negotiating Brexit terms has a very weak mandate. It is also obvious that while there (still) is support for leaving, the concept of “leaving” has a very different meaning depending on who you ask. Therefore it is likely that any deal with the EU is effectively vetoed by one cross-party alliance or other.
Given that (and given that the European counterparts in the negotiations really would have preferred a remain win), is it possible or even plausible that the UK will somehow retract its invocation of Article 50?
(I realize that there would be a heavy political price to pay. Assume a PM who thinks it’s worth that price.)
Clarification: I'm not asking about whether or not the UK and EU can reconcile. (That's certainly possible given a decent amount of good will.) I want to know if internal UK politics can possibly allow an "un-triggering" or if too much formality and pride is in the way.
Follow up thought on that: does the monarch technically have the power to just decide "no, were not going to do that," assuming she was willing to pay the political cost of such a unilateral decision?
@MartinSchröder so it is a clear *option* but not a realistic one. I like the idea of laying out all the feasible (meaning well-defined or indisputably present) options and discussing why each one would or wouldn't work for political/historical/social reasons. That seems more of a useful approach than "will the EU allow it because reasons" or "a second referendum might happen because the first one was dodgy as fuck". What are the actual options and what are their costs?
Also, please be patient with me as there are some legit mechanical details of the whole situation that I'm ignorant to. If I ask a dicey question about whether the UK can repeal brexit legally, it's in part because I legit am not clear on the process of how these things work as well as being unsure how much further the UK has committed to brexit within its own legal/political system. I get that a referendum can be ignored, but what about any bills or votes since the referendum.
"does the monarch technically have the power to just decide". I'm no constitutional lawyer, but doesn't the Queen have to sign off on Acts of Parliament. In which case, in theory she could refuse to sign off on the various Brexit bills. Having said that, given that her constitutional role would disappear as the UK came closer to being in a United States of Europe I imagine she's quietly a Brexiteer.
It is 'unrealistic'
Whilst results of a referendum aren't legally binding (the government can ignore them) in reality I can't see a party willing to ignore the results without having an, unlikely, second referendum to recount it.
Brexit resulted in more than a few resignations. Backing it for a second referendum would carry much too high a risk for most, I imagine. Backing out on the results of a referendum, however, would be of a similar scale of career/party suicide.
There are prices a party is willing to pay but for the Conservatives to give Labor the chance to claim that Tories will only ignore the voice of the people is a step too far.
If a smaller party, lib dems lets say, went into elections with the policy that they will back out of brexit and came into power then their winning vote could be seen as a psudo-referendum and the backing down could come into play.
Nice. Have it be some dark horse party's mandate. But it would require that voters were so eager for repeal that a majority would throw theIr support for a party that they may not otherwise endorse. They might as well call themselves the "anti brexit" party and only run on that platform. (in the states, a third party is lucky if it can significantly impact the outcome of the main candidates, so I have trouble imagining a third party actually winning even if everyone agrees with their main message).
@Anthony, ...the parliamentary system doesn't have the winner-take-all behaviors present in the US system, so while voting for a minor party in the US can be justifiably described as "throwing away one's vote", in Britain, that minor party may end up merely getting a smaller number of MPs, who can then try to get concessions from a major party in exchange for (what would in the US system be) conferencing with them.
@Anthony As Charles said, the UK only needs a ruling government to have a majority, not a single party with a majority so it could be made up of more than one party (and is, in fact, at the moment a mix of Conservative and DWP). On top of this the Lib Dems have had as many as 20% of the votes before.
@CharlesDuffy: Aren't UK parliamentary elections still winner-takes-all within each constituency?
@HenningMakholm Yes, they are so you could still count it as throwing a vote away if they have no chance of winning in your constituency. But in Scotland the SNP have a chance of winning constituencies but not of forming government on their own so they wouldn't be a throw-away vote.
@HenningMakholm yes, that is the case in our "first past the post" system, but there are 2 factors to consider. 1st is the "tactical voting" where people vote for a party different to their preference in order to sway the vote against a party they dislike. The other is the "UKIP" factor - in 2015 election UKIP received 4 million votes (and no seats) which was such a significant number that it forced the media and politicians to consider UKIP voter's reasons for voting for them, and thus forcing Cameron to call the referendum (all other party leaders since Blair "said" they'd call one, honest)
I’m picking this among several good answers, since I think this best addresses the question as asked.
@gbjbaanb, that's not entirely true. Ed Milliband ruled out a referendum. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ed-miliband/10691404/Ed-Miliband-will-not-hold-an-EU-referendum.html And the Conservative commitment to a referendum was less about UKIP than about the long seated divisions over EU membership within the Conservative Party itself.