A second referendum could be organised in just 10 weeks, MPs told

PUBLISHED: 16:40 23 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:40 23 July 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Anti Brexit demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

MPs being briefed on the practicalities of a second referendum have been told that it could technically be done within just 10 weeks of being signed off.

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After formal approval from the Queen, it would take six weeks to register campaigners and approve official groups, followed by a month for campaigning, said Bob Posner, CEO of the Electoral Commission (EC), in a briefing to the Brexit Select Committee.

But while this is theoretically possible, it is far shorter than ideal, he said. Good practice "generally regarded in democracies across the world" is to allow a clear six months before holding a vote.

According to PA, Posner said: "Theoretically one could go from royal assent straight into that 10-week period to take you to polling day.

"But it has to be said in recent referendums that's not what happened and it's not felt practical for many reasons."

He added: "In a perfect world one would say there's an electoral event coming up a clear six months before."

EC communications and research director Craig Westwood explained that time would be needed to assess whether voters understood the questions.

"From the last referendum as part of our feedback to the government and to parliament there was evidence that people didn't understand sufficiently what Leave meant," he said.

The EC advice will be of particular use to opposition parties who support a second referendum and will be looking to push for one on any deal Boris Johnson secures before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on October 31.

Johnson, who is about to become prime minister, has committed to delivering Brexit by this date, and time becomes even tighter if he sends MPs away on recess until September 3, as he is expected to do on Friday.

This would leave just under two months for any attempt at organising a second referendum.

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