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The Parti Québécois held a sovereignty referendum in 1980 and lost. Quebec would stay part of Canada. Not happy with the result, the PQ government called another referendum, 15 years later, and lost again. That’s the thing about referendums. For the losers, the first one never counts; another, please.

A big chunk of British voters want to pull the same stunt. The “Remainers” – the 48 per cent who voted to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum – think the 52 per cent who voted for Brexit were somewhere between deluded and idiotic. Many of them are calling for a second referendum and want one fast, for Britain is set to kiss the EU goodbye on March 29.

As the clock ticks down, those calling for a “People’s Vote” include top executives of some of Britain’s biggest industrial and financial services companies. They fear a no-deal scenario, which would see Britain crashing out of the EU with no trade deal, would destroy the British economy overnight. But even the deal put on the table by Prime Minister Theresa May, which calls for a Brexit-in-name-only transition period while Britain and the EU bang out a new trading relationship, would be disruptive and highly risky. They argue that there is no telling what the final access arrangement would look like, and whatever the outcome, the far more powerful EU bloc would come out on top.

They also insist that the Brexiteers were con artists or outright liars, that they foisted a Panglossian vision of Brexit that was entirely unrealistic and may even have involved illegal financing and the requisite Russian meddling and social-media manipulation. So better to have a new, clean vote devoid of dubious claims and outright falsehoods. The questions contemplated by any new referendum are a work in progress, but probably would ask the voter to tick one of three boxes: Remain, leave under the terms of Ms. May’s deal with the EU, or leave (that is, crash out) and operate under World Trade Organization rules.

The Remainers are convinced they would win any second referendum, and they point to recent polls that say “Remain” would emerge with a pretty fat majority of perhaps 55 per cent.

But would it? Never mind that polls are routinely dead wrong. They did not predict that Brexit Leavers would win, that Hillary Clinton would lose the 2016 U.S. election or that October’s Quebec election would hand a landslide victory to CAQ. The Remainers conveniently forget that they, too, ran a shameful and misleading campaign in 2016 and still lost by a meaningful margin. In elections, a four-point gap is pretty wide.

The Remainers’ attacks on the Brexiteers, both subtle and overt, was intense. Virtually the entire government, from then-prime minister David Cameron to junior Conservative ministers, bellowed incessantly about the dangers of Brexit. The BBC chimed in by trotting out armies of pundits who said the same. To add punch to their campaign, the Remainers added a terror element – Project Fear, as Brexiteers called it – insisting that a Brexit victory would bash the lights out of the economy well before the actual date of departure. In fact, the British economy continued to grow and unemployment dropped to its lowest level since 1975 (growth is now slowing, but is still positive).

The outpouring of sympathy for Jo Cox, the pro-Remain Labour MP who was murdered by a right-wing fanatic a week before the referendum no doubt swung a lot of votes towards the Remain side. Still, in spite of Mr. Cameron’s spirited campaign, Project Fear and the tragic assassination of Ms. Cox, Brexiteers won an unambiguous victory.

Britain is one of the world’s oldest and most durable democracies. To tell Britons that they have to vote again because the first vote no longer counts would be poke in the eye to anyone who values the democratic process, whether she or he is pro-Remain or pro-Brexit. My own view is that a second referendum would see the Remainers lose again, by an even larger margin. Then what? Would the Remainers lobby for yet another referendum a few years down the road, Quebec-style?

With Parliament set to reject Ms. May’s deal some time in early December, the odds of the crash-out scenario remain high. The odds of Ms. May getting her deal with the EU, or something close to it – a kick-the-can-down-the-road scenario – seem lower. The odds of a second referendum seem lower still, but they might rise as momentum for the idea builds.

Ms. May’s deal is actually the best way to prevent the country from ripping itself apart, even though it pleases no one and delivers another couple of years of uncertainty, during which time the EU would pretty much rule the trade agenda.

Her deal delivers Brexit, at least on the surface, returns border controls and takes the European Court of Justice out of the picture. It doesn’t deliver frictionless trade with the EU, but a broad trade deal by the end of the transition period (contemplated at 21 months) is certainly possible.

A second referendum would create chaos, no matter which way it went, because it would reinforce the country’s deep divisions, setting the stage for a psychological civil war. But the worst thing about a second referendum is that it disrespects the first referendum, which was fully democratic.

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