Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Anti-Brexit campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May’s historic defeat in the House of Commons yesterday has emboldened those in Westminster and around the country who argue a second referendum is needed to decide whether the U.K. goes ahead with Brexit or reverses course.

The big picture: A second referendum now looks at least as likely as the other scenarios: a tweaked version of May’s deal, a softer Brexit, a “no deal” exit or a general election.

  • The Economist Intelligence Unit put the likelihood of a second referendum at 30% in a new report, and that was before the Brexit deal May struck with the European Union was defeated by the largest margin in modern British political history.

The backstory: “Leave” beat “Remain” by a 52-48 margin in June, 2016. The major parties all said they’d respect the results and move ahead with Brexit. However, they never agreed on what form Brexit would take.

  • May argues that reversing course now would betray the will of the people and erode trust in politics for a generation. But some, including European Council President Donald Tusk, argue a second referendum is the only remaining course of action that makes any sense.
  • Tusk tweeted: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”

The catch: Just about every aspect of Brexit is far more complicated than it seems, and that’s also true of a second referendum.

The question

Parliament would have to approve the idea, and would also have to sign off on the question posed to voters. That’s particularly tricky here, because there are three broad options: leave with May’s deal, leave with no deal (the preferred choice for hardline Brexiteers), or remain in the EU.

  • Simply offering those three choices “would split the Leave vote into two camps whilst handing Remain a huge advantage,” the Telegraph’s Harry Yorke points out.
  • Instead, voters would likely have to be asked to rank their first and second choices, or whether they’d prefer no deal or May’s deal in the event that Leave beats out Remain.
The timing

Brexit Day, March 29, is fast approaching. In order to hold a second referendum, the U.K. would have to extend or revoke the “Article 50” provision that put Brexit into motion.

  • “A fair estimate is that the whole process would take a minimum of 21 weeks, but this would be much shorter than other recent referendums,” the Institute for Government notes.
The controversy

The objections to a second referendum from pro-Brexit Members of Parliament and activists are fierce. They claim the elites are out to undermine democracy because they didn’t like the people’s decision.

  • May is also firmly against it. She has said the people of the U.K. gave their leaders a “solemn responsibility to deliver Brexit,” and not doing so isn’t an option.
  • Remain now leads Leave by a 46 to 39 margin (or 54-46 once undecideds are removed) according to a YouGov poll released earlier this month.
  • But one scenario that’s been raised is the possibility that Remain defeats Leave this time around, but by a margin that’s similar to or smaller than Leave’s victory in 2016. What then?

The bottom line: There have only been three nationwide referendums in U.K. political history. Another referendum on Brexit has never been the likeliest course. But it has also never looked as likely as it does now.

Go deeper

Updated 46 mins ago - World

North Korea claims latest missile test new weapon launched from submarine

North Korean state media claims the country's military fired this missile on Tuesday. Photo: Korean Central News Agency

North Korean state media announced that a detected ballistic missile launch off its east coast on Tuesday was a newly developed weapon test-fired from a submarine.

Why it matters: Pyongyang's latest in a series of recent missile launches into the sea happened hours after U.S. officials emphasized their commitment to restart negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which have stalled since talks broke down during the Trump administration, AP notes.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin's massive means test

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is offering progressives a trade: He'll vote for their cherished social programs if they accept strict income caps for the recipients, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s plan to use so-called means-testing for everything from paid family medical leave to elder and disabled care would drastically shrink the size and scope of the programs. It also would bring a key moderate vote to the progressive cause.

The China whisperer

Nick Burns. Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee for ambassador to China will face aggressive questioning Wednesday about the most important, and potentially perilous, bilateral relationship in the world.

Why it matters: While Nick Burns is an experienced diplomat with support on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers want to use his confirmation hearing to force the administration into some tough positions on China.