The EU referendum: what next?

Posted on July 11th, 2016 by Alexandra Meakin

The Crick Centre has published an essay The EU Referendum: what next? by Peter Bradley, former Member of Parliament for The Wrekin (1997 – 2005), the Director of Speaker’s Corner Trust and a Practitioner Fellow of the Crick Centre.

The essay considers the EU referendum campaigns, the Brexit result and the options for the next government. Peter argues that while the 23 June referendum should not be rerun, but there are three reasons why he believes it should not be the “last word” on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

  • “First, it gives rise to an apparent conflict between the will of the electorate and the sovereignty of Parliament which must be resolved.
  • Second, the dubious reliability of some of the claims made during the campaign taken together with the slender margin of Brexit’s victory mean that we cannot be confident that the outcome represents the settled will of the electorate.
  • Third, it cannot, partly for that reason, provide a clear mandate for our legislators. Voters were asked whether in principle they wanted the UK to remain in or leave the EU. But they were not in a position to judge whether in practical terms the consequences of exit would be preferable to the conditions of membership. Those consequences will only become clear in the months, perhaps years, ahead.”

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Image courtesy of Mick Baker via Flickr

Peter concludes:

“The EU referendum process was flawed from beginning to end. Ignoring those deficiencies, as many politicians are currently are, does not make them any less serious or any less a potential threat to the national interest.

Running a referendum completely outside rather than integrated with our parliamentary system was one of the gravest mistakes. But it can be corrected. As the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler told The House magazine, “the referendum is merely advisory, and Parliament and the Government do maintain their sovereignty in law”. Though he warned that any attempt to frustrate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would trigger a “major political crisis”, he also acknowledged that it would be “paradoxical” to prevent Parliament from acting as it sees fit.

Despite the furore it will cause, that is what should now happen. Parliament should insist on the holding of a second referendum which, when we are all properly aware of the consequences of leaving the EU, establishes the informed and settled will of the electorate.

It will take courage and conviction for politicians to take this course and it will be real test of our democracy’s robustness. But it can be done and, in the national interest, it should be.”

Read the full essay: The EU Referendum: What’s next?