About this Section
The constitutional and historical effects of referendums have never been effectively worked out and historians have lost a whole section of British history. The introduction of referendums in the early 1970s to tackle failings in Westminster’s Representative Democracy left unresolved issues which are now biting. It is now asserted – by the Conservative government – that the 2016 referendum was an ‘instruction’ which is unchallengable and that “the British People voted to Leave…” and government must “implement the will of the people” *. This has never been the case, as the British did not vote to Leave – Northern Ireland and Scotland did not and are likely to break away, and the “will of the People” is the will of a majority on voting day.
The constitutional issues are about majoritarianism – what counts as giving a mandate and how long the mandate lasts – and how a further referendum can be triggered. There is no doubt that another vote is possible, but the rules are unclear . The unwritten constitution leaves much obscure, and now the danger of pressing ahead without checks and balances casts a deep shadow. Parliament has an overriding responsibility to ensure that the interests of the nation are defended and not to blindly press ahead regardless of consequences. The constitution is under severe pressure, and may break if the UK breaks up. The legality of a third referendum is unquestionable but increasingly it is argued this is undemocratic – a single vote is enough. However youth – even more neglected than the celtic nations who have voices to speak for them – have had no right to choose if they were not 18 on June 23rd 2016. What is democracy? These issues will go critical if parliament refuses a third referendum.
The ‘lost history’ will also become critical if commentators continue to argue that the option is for a “Second Referendum” which is yet to come. The loss of a whole tranche of British history from the 1970s by historians has left the rules established by the first Referendum (1975) in limbo, but the right to challenge the vote was established while others were not resolved, notably the lack of participation threshholds or need for a super majority. There are now other issues of a democratic, legal and constitutional nature unresolved, notably the Article 50 recall issue, and when the Scots can have a second independence referendum. These technical issues are now becoming pressing and are largely misunderstood or ignored by commentators who now seem to believe, as Dr Andrew Blick** has suggested, that the 2016 vote was in some way ultra democratic and overrides all checks and balances. Theory is no longer abstract.
*response to epetition expiring on 12th March 2018
** for the Constitutional Society
- T2 Democracy, Referendums & Brexit Pamphlet (10/27/2018) - Trevor Fisher has written a short pamphlet to explain the background to the issue of referendums and Brexit including the fact that the 2016 referendum was the second one on the issue not the first. To download the pamphlet all we ask is that you give us your email so we can keep you up to date on Brexit Skeptic. We only send out occasional emails and will never use your email for any other purpose. If you have already subscribed to our emails you will get a direct link to the pamphlet in an email. Either way you can save the pdf to your computer to read offline. Just go to File-Save As and save as a PDF. Trevor also has a limited number of printed copies - get in touch if you want one via the contact page.
- T1 Second Referendum Myths (6/19/2018) - It is widely believed that the Second Referendum is yet to come, a now universally shared opinion demonstrating the first (1975) referendum is now invisible. Why is this important? Neither the options available now -which are focussed on the third referendum - nor the rules which were partially established in 1975 and their flaws can be understood without coming to term with the fact that commentators from the Daily Mail, Observer, Guardian, Independent, experts in academia and polling and in all political parties notably those critical of the second referendum do not know it has already taken place. Those who do not understand the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. This list is random, and will be update whenever more reference to a coming second referendum are found. Feel free to send in more when you see them please. Trevor Fisher Media Myopia OPEN BRITAIN REMAIN RELAUNCHES - BUT GIVES UP HOPE FOR A SECOND REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN Tom Peck, Independent, 28th August 2016 "The official Remain Campaign, known as Britain stronger in Europe, has relaunched as a campaign group called Open Britain, but has stopped short of calling for a Second Referendum, and says controls on free movement