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Brexit and 'what if'.

Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby shootist » Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:57 pm

Discussing this with one of my sons today, the following though formed. Suppose an 80% turnout in the referendum and the exits win, taking 42% as opposed to 38% for remain (I'm taking the easy way out on the percentages, you will all know what I mean.). Would it be legal for the government, which clearly wants to remain, to say they will ignore the result because only 42% of the voting population wants out? If they did, what do you think might happen as a result?

Personally, I think that such a situation is all too possible.
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby Hairyloon » Sat Jun 11, 2016 2:27 am

Has anybody actually said that they will abide by the result, or have we just assumed that they should?

The European Convention contains some protection of our democratic rights: if we vote to leave and the government refuses to comply, then we may be able to use the European Court to pull us out of Europe...
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Sat Jun 11, 2016 7:22 am

The position has been set out in UCL's Constitution Unit blog:

We might start with the EU Referendum Act, which received royal assent just before Christmas. It sets out the referendum rules, so could be expected to define the effect of a vote either way. Alas, it does not: it makes no provision as to the referendum’s legal effect.

That is because, strictly speaking, it has no legal effect. It will be purely advisory and, in law, the government could simply ignore the result. In this it contrasts with the legislation for the electoral system referendum in 2011, which required the minister responsible to enact the result. But it is the same as the legislation underpinning the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 and, indeed, the referendum on membership of the Common Market in 1975.

Whatever the legal position, however, the political reality is that the government will have to respect the result. If the vote is to leave the EU, the Prime Minister will announce that the UK will indeed leave.


Politically the idea of ignoring the referendum result is unthinkable: we live in a democracy and people respect election results. Any party which tried to do so would be destroyed at the next election.

There will now follow thirty-five pages of bollocks about the constitution and the ECHR.
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby shootist » Sat Jun 11, 2016 8:01 am

Smouldering Stoat wrote:Politically the idea of ignoring the referendum result is unthinkable: we live in a democracy and people respect election results. Any party which tried to do so would be destroyed at the next election.


The idea that the government would just give a flat 'we're staying in' is, I agree, unthinkable, but perhaps I painted a too simple picture. If the result is for exit, then the government will be able to suggest that it will take several years for us to disentangle ourselves. They could then proceed to bugger about with committees, public enquiries, Royal Commissions and God knows what else. In the meantime the EU will almost certainly seek to sweeten the remain pill. Give it a few years and the combination of inertia, overexposure to the subject, and a barrage of lies, then there may be either another, more carefully managed referendum, or just a bald faced propaganda based declaration on what is best for the country.
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:34 am

I think that may be true up to a point; but equally any attempt to dilly-dally over these things would be politically difficult. It's debatable whether the Prime Minister could continue in office if he didn't make firm moves towards leaving without delay. The Government isn't united and the Tory backbenches are febrile.
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby Hairyloon » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:43 am

Smouldering Stoat wrote:Politically the idea of ignoring the referendum result is unthinkable...

Of course, but taking it into consideration is not ignoring it: if it is a close result to leave, then it would be folly to engage in a rapid withdrawal. As Shootist says: stalling tactics would be the order of the day and I'm sure they can easily stall until the next election.
we live in a democracy and people respect election results. Any party which tried to do so would be destroyed at the next election.

Both parties would be trying it, and if they are both destroyed at the next election, that can only be a good thing.
There will now follow thirty-five pages of bollocks about the constitution and the ECHR

Oh dear. Are you referring to your continued befuddlement at the difference between "rarely" an "never"?! I'm sorry, but just because you don't understand something does not make it bollocks.

Smouldering Stoat wrote:It's debatable whether the Prime Minister could continue in office if he didn't make firm moves towards leaving without delay.

Didn't he say he's going to leave anyway?
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Sat Jun 11, 2016 5:08 pm

Sorry, life's too short.
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby diy » Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:15 pm

If the UK votes leave, I think MPs may look at parliamentary majority to force a renegotiation with the EU, given that:
1. Labour and SNP are both pro EU, so you hardly have the option of voting the conservatives out in retaliation.

2. The EU now realize that the end is nigh for the EU if Britain leaves.
a. They can’t afford to fund it without us
b. Anti-EU sentiment is actually higher in France and Germany
c. All the threats of pain for the UK will have greater impact on the rest of the EU.

3. A lot of Leave voters where on the fence anyway so probably would prefer another round of negotiations.
My suggestions are not legal advice
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby Russell » Tue Jun 14, 2016 4:48 pm

Does anyone know the winning post on this? I take it its not more votes for leave than remain, its normally more complex.
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Re: Brexit and 'what if'.

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Tue Jun 14, 2016 5:54 pm

Not normally, no. I can only think of two referendums in which there's been a more complex requirement: the Scottish and Welsh Devolution referendums of 1979 (and they were held on the same day), but they were votes which had direct legal effect. And in both cases the requirement had been introduced in order to wreck the chances of vote in favour.
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