In the EU referendum of 2016 one choice was a reality: remaining a member of the EU (though constantly misrepresented by those who control 80 per cent of the national press by readership). The other – leaving or Brexit – was a fantasy – a great empty screen onto which everyone could project their fantasy: an extra £350m a week for the NHS, less immigration, no immigration, keeping all the advantages of EU membership without having to obey any of the rules, signing up trade deals with major countries all over the world in the blink of an eye, etc, etc.
No wonder many people were frustrated by a debate from which reality seemed generally absent.
If we were to have a referendum on any agreement Theresa May manages to negotiate with the EU, or on her failure to reach one, that would be a very different matter. Yes, the extreme right wing press would continue its distortion, but it would be a choice between two realities – accepting the Leave terms negotiated or withdrawing Article 50 and staying in the EU.
It would be a ‘second referendum’ only if the Brexit deal fulfils all the promises made by the Leave campaign, and even the Brexiters themselves are now admitting this will not happen. We should stop talking about a ‘second referendum’. We haven't had the first one yet, unless you count the one that produced a two-to-one majority for staying in the EU.