5 Ways Brexit Might Not Happen

A full U.K. exit from the EU isn’t inevitable.

5 Ways Brexit Might Not Happen
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) holds a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (R) after their meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on June 27, 2016 in London, England. [Photo:Daniel Leal-Olivas - WPA Pool /Getty Images]

On Monday John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, met with British and European leaders for private talks to discuss the ramifications of Brexit, last week’s vote for the U.K. to leave the EU. But the very next day during a talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival, something unexpected happened: Kerry suggested that Brexit may never actually happen. He provided two reasons– that Leave campaigners actually didn’t know how to achieve a Brexit, and that further they don’t truly want a divorce from the EU. As the Guardian reports:


Claiming there were a number of ways in which Thursday’s vote could be “walked back,” Kerry, who visited Downing Street on Monday, said David Cameron was loath to invoke article 50, the EU exit procedure. He said the British prime minister felt powerless to “start negotiating a thing that he doesn’t believe in” and “has no idea how he would do it.” Apparently referring to Boris Johnson, one of the frontrunners to replace Cameron, Kerry added: “And by the way, nor do most of the people who voted to do it.”

Kerry said he didn’t want to talk specifics about how Brexit could be “walked back” but he did say “I think there are a number of ways.” What ways might those be? Both the Guardian and MarketWatch offer a number of scenarios:

A Second Referendum

Over 4 million people have so far signed a petition for a second referendum–and even some Tories are supporting the idea. The most common argument is now people know what they are in for if the U.K. leaves the EU. In other words, because of the historic economic fallout that has already happened in less than a week after the first vote, people would be more likely to vote to stay if given another chance.

Parliament Could Block Brexit

An overwhelming majority of the House of Commons or the House of Lords are against Brexit. But both houses are needed to approve a law that would allow the British government to invoke Article 50. Though the U.K. has no written constitution, House members are required to act on what they believe is in the best interest of the country.

The Referendum Could Be Treated As Advisory

Technically, the EU referendum was nothing more than just a big, countrywide poll. It had no legal bearing. If the government wanted to, it could simply ignore the result (though this might be political suicide, so better to have a second referendum).

An Early General Election Could Be Called

All the major political parties in the U.K. are in disarray. Some members from different parties are calling for an early general election so the public can vote on who they want to be prime minister when David Cameron steps down (the next scheduled general election isn’t until 2020). An early general election would allow potential party leaders to campaign on whether they would actually take the U.K. out of the EU. The Lib Dems have already said they would keep the U.K. in the EU if elected.

Scotland Could Block It (Maybe)

Scotland voted overwhelmingly to keep the U.K. in the EU (as did Northern Ireland). Scottish leaders are now considering ways the Scottish parliament could block legislation that would give the British government the go-ahead to invoke Article 50.