Another one, another one, and another one! IS ANOTHER EU REFERENDUM UNDEMOCRATIC?
The question of having another EU referendum and whether having another is undemocratic or not has been a topic of discussion since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on the 23rd June 2016. Although to many, it was the first ‘EU’ referendum it is important to remember that in 1975 there was a referendum on whether to stay in the EEC now known as the European Union. In answering the question of whether having another referendum is undemocratic or not, the arguments of Remainers (those who wish to stay in the EU) and Brexiteers (those who wish to leave the EU) must be considered.
Starting with the Brexiteer view that another referendum would be undemocratic. This view is widely shared for the obvious reason that another say could mean that the Brexit Process could be reversed. This opposition that pro-Brexit supporters take is so strong that it has even led to the opposition of the idea, that parliament should be able to reverse Article 50, which in turn would keep the UK in the European Union, after all Parliament cannot bind successive Parliaments. Although it is worth noting that most do support a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal. However, they support the meaningful vote as long as it cannot reverse the Brexit process which is strange considering that they want Parliament to have more of say after Brexit but that is neither here nor there. This has led to some extreme hostility by certain pro-Brexit newspapers such as the Daily Mail who have consistently spoken out against the House of Lords after the House of Lords started amending Brexit legislation. The EU Withdrawal Act, for example, which also saw Tory peers rebel in order to slow down the Brexit process, although these rebels did back down. Even though the constitutional role of the House of Lords is to scrutinise and revise legislation and therefore it is there job to do so, this still hasn’t stopped attacks on rebels which has led to headlines such as “IT’S TIME TO PULL PLUG ON THE LORDS” as opposed to older views displayed with headlines of the past such as “PRAISE BE TO THE LORDS”. This shift shows how opposed pro-Brexit groups and individuals are to the idea that Brexit may not be a ‘No Deal Brexit’ or a ‘Hard Brexit’ as many have suggested and wanted the outcome of Brexit to be.
So, what is the actual argument against another referendum on the membership to the EU?
Well, it is the idea that another referendum would be undemocratic as the people have already voted. So, to have a referendum straight after a referendum deciding the exact same thing would not only be undemocratic as it could rewrite the decision that had only recently been taken. Not only this, but there are worries that it would create a vicious cycle of the national divide because, fundamentally, what stops another referendum taking place after a 2nd, 3rd, or even a 4th, 5th, 6th. Therefore, it can be argued that it was good that the two membership referendums of 1975 and 2016 were so separated, as it meant that different generations were now voting on the issue. This is the same thinking of many when it comes to another Scottish independence referendum. The referendum in 2014 was one set of generations voting and the next should be many years later, whereby there will be new generations voting. Although, in the EU referendum many of the over 65s did get to vote back in the 1975 referendum. However, these reasons suddenly construct quite a sound argument for keeping the last referendum vote final, or at least final for a couple of generations at the very least. As it means newer generations get a chance to have a say, rather than just asking the many whom voted the last time.
However, there is indeed a counter-argument to all this, not including the argument that parliament should at least get a vote on the final deal as they are sovereign, especially during a time whereby the Government no longer has an overall majority as of 2017, making Parliament more important than in the past, in matters such as Treaties at least. Other arguments, such as the youth vote argument and the narrow result argument, which in many ways come hand in hand. The argument to do with the youth vote is down to the idea that because 16 and 17-year olds did not get the vote they could not help counter-act the sheer number of elderly voters who were mostly pro-Brexit. There is evidence of this found on statistics websites such as YouGov, which claims using its stats that “Over-65s were more than twice as likely as under-25s to have voted to Leave the European Union” and, furthermore, that Brexit happened due to low youth turnout of what is estimated to only be around 36% of 18-24-year-olds. This in part then goes on to fuel the narrow result argument that because the vote was only 51.9% to 48.1% then another vote should be had until a significant percentage falls onto either side. However, this can be seen as just being a way of getting Remainers to get the result they want and sabotage the Brexiteers victory.
Overall, although around half the country including myself do not want Brexit. It is clear to me, that having another referendum at this current point in time is the wrong thing to do, due to the possibility of dividing the country further, through a continues cycle of referenda. Although I do believe that Parliament is wholly sovereign so that if parliament wished to a make any change during the Brexit process then they have the right and power to do so. Particularly during a time whereby, the Government lacks a true majority so arguably needs to run changes through parliament, in order to survive the Brexit process as a party.
This article was written by Cameron Thomas. Cameron is a student at the University of Salford.