A mandate can be either democratic or irreversible, but it cannot be both – an argument

31st July 2017

Over at the FT the other day I did a post about mandates and sovereignty.  Many people seemed to find the points in it interesting, and so (outside of the paywall) I will set out here in more detail the argument I made there about mandates.

The proposition I advance is in essence:

a mandate can be either democratic or irreversible, but it cannot be both.

The argument in support of this proposition goes as follows:

1.  To say a referendum result provides a mandate for an issue once and for all is to say it is irreversible.

2.  The position in (1) contrasts with mandates from general elections.  Usually in UK politics, the result of a general election does not mandate any MP to vote for anything.  The only real constitutional effect of a mandate from a general elections is that, by convention, any mandated measure cannot be blocked or delayed by the House of Lords (the “Salisbury doctrine”).

(Something is said to be mandated from a general election if it is set out in the manifesto of a party which obtains an overall majority.)

3. Following from (2): (a) opposition MPs can vote against measures in the winning party’s manifesto, (b) no government is obliged to follow its own manifesto (and often does not), and (c) in certain circumstances, a government can abandon and reverse policies where there is a mandate without waiting for a general election.

(A classic illustration of (c) is the poll tax, for which a Conservative government had a detailed mandate from the 1987 general election. Few sensible people, if any, would have argued that the Tories were bound to keep this tax in 1990 because of “democracy” when it came to be seen widely as wrong in principle and unworkable in practice.)

4.  Following from (2) and (3), mandates in UK politics are usually reversible, if they are followed at all.

5.  In any case, anything “mandated” by a general election result will always (and logically) be reversible at another election.

(In the case of (3)(c), there would not even be the wait for a general election.  For example, nobody in 1990 was saying about the poll tax: “let’s wait for the next general election for a mandate for something else”.  The policy was rightly ditched mid-parliament.)

6.  Following from (2), (3), (4) and (5) if a policy is (a) wrong in principle and (b) unworkable in practice then it is difficult to see how any perceived mandate from a general election can override that.

7.  Mandates also can come from referendums. The questions to now ask are: What should be the position with mandates from referendums? Should such mandates have an irreversible quality which a mandate from a general election does not?  And if it has an irreversible quality, would such a mandate still be “democratic”?

8.  In respect of whether such a mandate would be democratic, one can apply the famous tests of Tony Benn.  He suggested five tests for anyone with power: What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you use it? To whom are you accountable? How do we get rid of you?

9.  It is the last one that is problematic about referendum results, and prompts the following questions: How do you reverse a referendum result? Can an electorate at one point in time bind all future electorates in a way that no parliament could ever do?  Why should a majority at point A have more inherent power than an electorate at point B? These questions all point to one plausible answer: to say a referendum result is mandatory for all time and not reversible in any circumstances is to rob future electorates of their power.

(As a side note, no Brexiteer – rightly – seems to believe that the UK was bound for all time by the 1975 referendum result.)

10.  If the position at (9) is valid, then for a referendum mandate to be democratic, it must be capable of being revisited (either to affirm it or reverse it), else it cannot be democratic.  One electorate would have dictated a measure to all future electorates.

11.  If the position at (10) is valid, this is not to suggest a second referendum (see my post here – my view is that any such decision in a parliamentary democracy should be made, well, by parliament).  Instead, if the position at (10) is valid then it means that referendum results (or anything else) should not be given the status of an absolute mandate in a democracy, for to do so would thereafter render that polity as undemocratic.  This is because something will have been done that cannot be undone, whether by voters directly or through parliament.

12.  And so on the basis of the positions above, a mandate – whether by means of a general election or a referendum – can be either democratic or irreversible, but it cannot be both.



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61 thoughts on “A mandate can be either democratic or irreversible, but it cannot be both – an argument”

  1. A corollary is that referendums should be reserved and required for matters which truly are irreversible: the reunification of Ireland, for example.

    1. The Belfast Agreement (enacted by NI Act) states a referendum on constitutional status of Ireland is to be binding on Parliament.

      1. Kevin, as a Yank living on the Continent, is a currently-sitting Parliament truly sovereign–meaning I expect that it can do anything it wishes legislatively–or is it limited as the US & Germany by something like a Constitution? And who enforces such a duality? This is of course quite relevant to the Belfast Agreement.

  2. Let me say at the outset that I voted Remain. I interpret what was said before the referendum as being that the effect of a No vote would be that we would leave the EU and all its institutions and that this would be such a major constitutional change that it could not be reversed in the short to medium term. I didn’t hear anything that suggested we couldn’t have another referendum at some point in the more distant future.

    1. Michael,
      Isn’t this the problem: this is, as you admit, just your interpretation – another individual could quite reasonably have a different interpretation – and you don’t even specify what the ‘short to medium term’ means? Five years? Ten? Twenty?
      When is ‘the more distant future’?
      Huge constitutional changes have to be made on more than personal gut feelings of what they actually mean, and decision-making processes that are irreversible for unspecified time scales. Who would do that?

      1. PeteW, I would say that to measure any length of time simply by recourse to an uninvolved abstraction as the orbit of the earth about the sun is meaningless. It should be measured by a scale determined by the sequence of real-world relevant events. In other words, if the s**t is hitting the fan, think quick, act fast, prepare to reverse quickly; if things are relatively quiet and moods are unchanging, then plan carefully for a more long term implementation. Add to this that as reality unfolds (event by event, not week by week), and each event shows itself or what it is, opinions will change. To be in a situation where because of a population’s opinion at one point in time, a population at a future point in time are subjected to something they think is wrong, is surely not right. The sensibilities of the more current population are affronted and their democratic wants are undermined. A high frequency rate of events would bring that situation about more quickly in a span of calendar time than a calmer less eventful span of time.

  3. Again we hear the desperate logic of the remoaner, which if followed to its conclusion implies that Classical Athens was not a democracy. (As requested).

    1. Thank you. Three points:

      1. The above is an argument set out in the abstract, and so nothing depends on it being in the context of Brexit. If the Brexit referendum result had gone the other way, the argument would still be as valid. Indeed, as I observe in passing, Brexiteers do not see the 1975 result as being irreversible.

      2. I am not opposed to Brexit in principle, and you can see here my proposals for how it should be done: http://blogs.ft.com/david-allen-green/2017/07/17/how-brexit-should-be-done/

      3. Your reference to classical Athens is no doubt clever but I do not understand it, sorry. But I do take parliamentary supremacy seriously. That is why I think it is for parliament to decide these questions.

      1. I was making the observation that in Classical Athens everything was decided by referendum. Furthermore Classical Athens was definitely a democracy; it’s whence we get the term ‘democracy’. To argue that a referendum is undemocratic, as so many have, is therefore to argue that the Athenian Constitution was undemocratic, a position which is quite frankly ridiculous. Certainly a referendum cuts against our tradition of *representative* democracy but it is democratic.

        1. Asserting something as “quite frankly ridiculous” (and if something is ridiculous, it is hard to see what “quite” and “frankly” add) is not the same as showing it to be so. One can assert anything.

          1. I can’t reply to your last comment for some reason so I’ve replied to this one again. My original point was that classical Athens was the quintessential democracy and used referenda. Therefore referenda are not undemocratic. You haven’t responded to this point by pointing out a flaw in my logic.

            You made the point that my assertion of ridiculousness is not the same as showing it to be so, but now you’ve conceded that my assertion was nonetheless correct? It’s odd that you’re choosing this part to argue with – whether it’s ridiculous to argue that Athens was not a democracy. We all agree that Athens was a democracy. I think you’re deliberately obfuscating the issues because you don’t want to tackle them.

          2. The example of Athens actually proves DAGs point – the decisions of the Athenian Assembly were not irreversible. Perhaps the most dramatic example is the Mytilenian Debate in 427 BCE. The city of Mytilene had revolted against Athens. On one day the Assembly issued a decree ordering the execution of all citizens of the city, while the women and children were to be sold as slaves, and ship carrying the order was despatched. The following day, after further debate, the decree was reversed and a ship carrying a countermand order was sent, which, fortunately, arrived before the original order was implemented.

        2. The question before you is whether a referendum delivers an irreversible mandate. If it does then even the people’s democratic will for it to be reversed will be ignored.

          You can have parliamentary democracy or a direct democracy. But it seems difficult to combine both. Yet to say you can have a system of direct democracy where a vote is so binding it cannot be unbound is to challenge the notion that such a system has all the essential characteristics of a democracy in the first place.

          The Swiss system for example, has built in safeguards so new referendums can always be called on old previously settled issues.

        3. Referendums/Referenda are not inherently undemocratic – That’s not the point David is making. Within the UK’s *representative* democracy, however, the tension between democracy and irreversibility stands exactly as indicated in the post (indeed, you appear to concede as such)..

          But I do recall an incident in 406 BC, in the aftermath of the Battle of Arginusae. A groundswell of popular anger at a number of generals led to the men in question being convicted, sentenced, and executed in an unconstitutional manner (including death threats levelled at those who spoke out against the action). When the ‘demos’ collectively changed its mind, the people who had led the charge to convict were themselves put on trial, accused of “misleading the people” (those folks subsequently absconded). Athenians didn’t like getting duped, even if they willingly voted for it.

        4. But then the point still remains to be made whether a subsequent referendum could reverse an earlier referendum outcome in Ancient Athens. DAG is not arguing that referenda are undemocratic per se, only if they cannot be overturned subsequently.

          1. No he didn’t make clear whether he believes that a referendum creates a mandate or whether they’re reversible. He also wants the referendum result to be overturned by Parliament without any subsequent referendum.

            The point is that of course, eventually the UK could rejoin the EU but that’s a much more long term argument. When remoaners say that the result is reversible they mean that we don’t have to leave the EU at all, not that we might be able to rejoin it later. To take the GE analogy, the GE result is irreversible until the next election. It would be like the Leader of the Opposition immediately calling for another snap election simply because his party didn’t win.

            Furthermore it’s also obvious that the referendum creates a mandate. Don’t be confused by DAG’s talk of constitutional theory; a mandate is simply an instruction. It adds legitimacy to government action. Can you imagine if Remain had won and the government had decided to Leave the EU anyway? That would be outrageous, but since Leave won it’s legitimate. Why is this? Because the result created a mandate. That’s all it means.

            This article is sophistry at its finest, he wants the reader to draw the conclusion that it would be legitimate for us to not leave the EU at all however the only real conclusion from this reasoning is that, ultimately nothing is irreversible if by ‘irreversible’ that it can never be revisited for the rest of eternity. But that’s obvious!

          2. “He also wants the referendum result to be overturned by Parliament without any subsequent referendum.” No, I say it is a matter for parliament to decide. That is not the same as urging which decision parliament should make.

            “sophistry at its finest”? Well…

          3. My apologies, given the general tenor of the tweets of yours I’ve read I assumed that you would be urging Parliament to keep us in the EU. Glad to be corrected.

            Although thanks to Ms Miller Parliament has already decided.

        5. That very much depends on what your idea of a ‘democracy’ is. In ancient Athens only male citizens had the vote; women and the plebs didn’t. It was far removed from OMOV.

  4. I have heard it suggested that the referendum vote “means” that we have to leave the EU (in one way or another) but then it is acceptable for us to rejoin. I am more interested in the question of impracticability as discussed above. The removal of IDS as Conservative leader keeps occurring to me. Sometimes, whatever the rules are, things are just seen to have to be done.

  5. Your points are valid in the case of holding a referendum designed as ‘mandatory’ and with a corresponding supermajority requirement for implementation, but the specifics of the 2016 EU vote need to be examined. The referendum itself was advisory and the government had no legal obligation to implement the result. Article 50 could have been triggered without a referendum had a decision been made by Parliament to leave the EU regardless of public opinion. David Cameron made implementing the result of the referendum binding on his government only by way of it being a GE mandate which as you point out can, by convention and required pragmatism, be ignored if needs must. No ‘mandate’ from the referendum needs to be examined because an ‘advisory’ referendum cannot alone provide one by definition.

    1. No, a referendum does create a mandate. A government isn’t legally obliged to implement its manifesto commitments, but it does have a mandate to do so. Similarly just because the referendum was ‘advisory’ doesn’t mean it doesn’t create a mandate, which is just an instruction to do something.

      1. There was parliamentary discussion and agreement (including T May as HS) around 2010 that determined that as a default a referendum would be ‘advisory’ as opposed to one in which there were provisions making it a ‘mandatory’ referendum. What makes you decide a referendum deliberately stated to the electorate as ‘advisory’ can create a mandate?

        1. You’re confused as to what a mandate means. A mandate is just an instruction. An instruction can be advisory and not legally binding (exactly the same as a manifesto commitment). An advisory referendum creates an advisory mandate.

          Only problem is that the electorate were repeatedly told by both sides that the result would be implemented. It was not stated to the electorate that it was advisory (until after the result).

  6. Yes, one of the most disturbing features has been the abdication of Parliamentary sovereignty. Yet the worry is that this abdication is – for the moment – so widespread: there are too few MPs prepared to act on Burkean principles and calling for a halt to Brexit. (Look at the weak response south of the border to the Scottish letter from Kerr et al. doing precisely that.) Given this weakness, what is needed is a change in the Westminster mind-set. If we eliminate a further referendum, will this come? Hard to see now, but given the strange way in which politics can suddenly shift, it’s too early to dismiss the possibility that the mood suddenly changes and MPs (where Remainers are still in the majority) simultaneously regain both backbone and the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.

  7. David, a further consideration to be taken into account: we are talking about a consultative referendum.

  8. Whilst your logic works perfectly well if the abstract, it loses much of its persuasiveness (for me) when applied to (current) reality. How would the electorate react to a decision by political elites to independently reverse a ‘once in a generation’ referendum? What price would be paid in terms of lost legitimacy/support for our political institutions? By how much would it further fuel disenchantment and cynicism towards our elected politicians? These are the understandable concerns of those that may wish to not implement a referendum result but fear the potentially grave consequences of doing so.

    1. There we have an MP’s dilemma! Do they act in their own political interests or in the best interests of the United Kingdom and it’s citizens/residents? At the moment with few exceptions it’s the former.

      1. A sentiment currently being seen in the USA with the farce that is the Affordable Care Act repeal attempts

        But referendum-wise, we have the added complication that there are plenty of folks who genuinely believe that Brexit is in their best interests. Does an MP have the right, or a responsibility, to say “I know you voted Leave, but the consequences of Brexit will screw you over, so I’m going to ignore your views and push for Remain”?

        It’s at times like this I just let Edmund Burke speak for me


  9. Very interesting analysis, thank you. The short-termism of our parliamentary democracy, and the nature of constantly changing governments does seem to mean that long-term decision-making e.g. membership or not of supra-national bodies, has no official mechanism for implementation. Perhaps in light of this v unsatisfactory Brexit situation, we need to come up with something. Referenda clearly not the answer.

  10. Not a Brexiteer, but if I were, I’d argue that unlike a manifesto commitment, the mandate from the referendum has a special status because it is supported by an explicit government promise of implementation. As a remainer, I object to it having been because referendums are anathema to Parliamentary democracies, at least on complex matters.

    But the promise was made. Difficult to say to Brexiteers it was not meant. A reasonable Brexiteer might say: “If it’s really impossible to leave, ok, I’ll accept that”. But it’s not impossible to leave. Just let the clock tick down.

      1. A promise to implement the result of the referendum – to leave the EU. It’s not meaningless. If we are no longer a party to the treaties, we have left. Article 50 process we are following leads inevitably to our leaving the EU unless the process is arrested.

    1. Of course we can let the clock tick down but what of the consequences? Are we to tolerate gaps in the law, uncertain terms for trade in goods and services, uncertainty over travel, removal of citizens’ rights, loss of influence in supra-national organisations for science, medicine and finance….? All to respect a snapshot of public opinion which is over 1 year old where none of these points seem to have garnered much consideration and the government still does not have a settled aim for the outcome.

      Perhaps the reasonable Leaver would consider this and ask for a rethink. An unreasonable Leaver would say “we will survive” or “everything will be fine we are in a position of strength”. Sadly it seems the Brexit ministries are in charge of the latter and Parliament seems to be too fearful to stand up for the country.

      1. All the things you say are fine things but they’re not (yet) in or perceived to be in the Overton window.

        The promise should not have been made.

        But it was.

        The government should not have been so hasty or so simplistic. It could have not had a referendum or it could have specified two. It could have proposed or Parliament could have chosen a more representative franchise. It could have done much differently.

        But it didn’t.

        1. Government does not make laws so it really doesn’t matter what was said one Prime Minister and a General Election ago. Leave supporting MPs have the job of negotiating and they don’t seem to be making a very good job of it. Parliamentarians are the ones who will approve changes to law and they are the ones who will decide what happens next.

          1. In principle you are right, but our fate is really not in Parliament’s hands. We do not know whether we have a unilateral right to reverse course. And we do not know, if not, that the EU would allow us to.

          2. No, since the foolish submission of the Article 50 notice if intent it will be the EU that decides what happens next. Parliamentarians may get a shock to find the Lisbon Treaty binds them to leave whatever deal (or none) is forthcoming. Sheer incompetent stupidity.

          3. Rob and Alan, you are correct but I still see a way back if only our politicians would search for it. EU would accept revocation request even after this summer of farce. At some point goodwill is going to run out but I don’t feel we have reached that stage yet. In a way the notification was useful as it exposes the lack of planning from our ministers.

  11. Or, to put the twelve-step argument another way: If the government of the day (i) wanted to avoid implementing a referendum result and (ii) believed that it could do so without suffering any punishment from the voters at the next election, the government might well decide not to go ahead and the absence of electoral punishment (if it came to pass, as predicted) would be all the proof one needed that the referendum result was not irreversible.

    In the specific case of Brexit, it seems pretty clear that the leaders of the two main parties, and an overwhelming majority of MPs, have (so far) taken the view that overriding the referendum result would lead to a punishment beating at the polls. (The Lib Dems, on the other hand, thought differently about the matter.)

  12. You don’t address the question of timing. Clearly can’t have them annually. So maybe “settled for a generation” e.g. 25 years, as was often said about the Scottish independence referendum. (When Parliament abdicates it’s responsibility by calling a referendum, it is very hard to put that genie back in the bottle)

  13. Why then are there referenda in a parliamentary system?
    1. There may be matters about which a majority of the nation should rule. Given the first-past-the-post system currently in use, a government with a majority of MPs may well have (and very usually so) won that majority with a minority of the votes. It may even have won fewer votes than the opposition (cf. 1951). This makes no sense. If it is deemed important to govern with majority support, one of the systems of proportional representation would be instituted.
    2. There may be matters which cut across the existing party divides. The sensible and simpler and cheaper solution is a free vote or, if the issue involves morality, a conscience vote.
    3. There may be issues which are of longer lasting effect or are a profound change in the governance of the country. As such, a referendum may be called. Obviously, Brexit is not like the poll tax. Had the Tories been bloody minded and passed the poll tax in 1990, its very unpopularity and impossibility would probably have resulted in Labour winning the next election and its immediate repeal. Brexit is different. One can play poll tax ping pong over several electoral cycles. One cannot leave in 2019, decide it was a mistake and rejoin in 2021, leave again in 2023 etc. In such a case or in the case of major systemic change, a referendum may be a method used. The problem here is that a majority is not enough. For a longer time than one electoral cycle the matter will be closed. As such, some sort of a super majority is needed as is the case with the amending process in countries with a written constitution. For example, Canada does not use a referendum to amend its new(ish) constitution. It does require the support of the federal Senate and House of Commons and the support of 2/3 of the provincial legislatures whose provinces contain a majority of the population of the country. There are other rules which allow a province to opt out of an amendment taking away a provincial power and for some changes (such as changes in the office of the Queen, Governor General and provincial Lt. Governors) unanimous support is required(including a change in this section of the amending formulae. In Australia, a referendum is used, but 50% + 1 is not the standard. (Remember voting is compulsory.) There must be a country-wide majority and a majority in a majority of the states and the majority of states must have a majority of the population of the country.
    4. It follows from 3, that matters requiring some sort of a super majority are those for which a simple referendum is lacking. I have argued that the Brexit referendum, involving a matter not amenable to electoral ping pong, must require some sort of a super majority. There may be a requirement as to a high threshold of participation. There may be, and I believe there should have been, a requirement that in the UK, the referendum must succeed in a majority of the 4 nations. With such a rule, Brexit would fail.
    5. If we conduct a thought experiment, we find even the above to be lacking. Would anyone (ANYONE) seriously believe that Brexit would have been triggered had the referendum passed with a small majority and had passed in N. Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but had failed (just below 50%) in England? Of course not. The majority of the population of the country rule (as in both Canada and Australia) is also necessary.
    Referenda as I have argued have no place in the ordinary governance of a parliamentary democracy. Where they may be of some legitimacy involves (as in Australia) much more than 50% + 1. That may involve constituent units, a participation threshold, the overall majority of the country, and, perhaps, even a 60% or 2/3 rule.

    Yes, a mandate, to be democratic must be reversible, but, as well, a referendum in a matter not amendable to, what I have called, ordinary electoral ping pong, requires some form of a super majority. I have also argued that referenda for ordinary matters have no place in a parliamentary democracy.

  14. As I believe I recall from my long-ago studies in English Constitutional history (that’s what my American history department called it) there was some notice that the only condition that could not be changed was death. At some point or other, a Lord Justice noticed this formally, saying that the death sentence would not be carried out until some nonconfirming evidence had a chance to show itself.

  15. I think the sentence “a mandate can be either democratic or irreversible” is a slightly confusing framing. It implies that an irreversible mandate *could*, theoretically, somehow be created, inside a democratic society. But the definition of a democracy is that at regular periods, you get to vote on what happens next, and you can change your mind. So how could a mandate *ever* be irreversible?

    I would instead propose that “In a democracy, a mandate cannot be irreversible, by definition.”

  16. ‘Male citizens in Athens could vote on all the decisions that affected the city and serve on juries. However, democracy was not open to everyone. Citizen women and children were not allowed to vote. Slaves and foreigners living in Athens (known as metics) were banned from participating in government’
    Source: British museum www
    Hence (to the men commenting above) I counter neither Athens nor Brexit referendum democratic (no non British residents eligible to vote).

  17. The main point of the piece goes, ultimately, to the question of entrenchment, which, constitutionally, we have always resisted. Are we adjusting the constitution of Britain to include the admission of an entrenched policy by dint of referendum? My opinion is that it would be unwise so to do.

  18. I believe it is important to construe the present confusion by reference to ‘parliamentary democracy’ rather than ‘Athenian democracy’.

    As I see it the Conservative manifesto in 2015 provided for an ‘in-out’ referendum and – appropriately – the then-leader Cameron committed himself to staying in office to implement the result. Although he also said he would not fight another election (expected in 2020), he had plenty of time to hold a referendum and implement its result.

    The muddle arises because, the Conservative government elected in 2015 having won the right to take the country out of the EU, it simply didn’t do it. First Cameron resigned, second the Conservatives unhelpfully elected a leader not personally committed to leaving the EU, and thirdly the Conservative PM called another election.

    The decision to call the 2017 election has confused and corrupted parliamentary democracy – not only did it waste valuable time in getting on with the process of leaving but more vitally it extinguished the mandate. The 2015-7 Conservative government, instead of “owning” the result of the referendum which it called, has abandoned that mandate while at the same time asking every other politician to “own” the result of the referendum.

    I feel we are now becoming ungovernable. The referendum, rather than being used to support an elected government’s decision to take a highly controversial step, is being treated as a supra-election which, for an undefinable period, requires “politicians” to deliver the will of the people. This concept simply doesn’t fit within any reasonable understanding of how parliamentary democracy works – whether from election to election or between elections.

  19. The status of a specific referendum should be transparent from the outset. In our representative democracy it is challenging to see any result being binding. There is political pressure to respect the decision as long as the process was fair. For important constitutional decisions there can be thresholds of vote and turnout. The whole thing needs to be overseen by an impartial body and politicians should keep out of it as much as possible.

  20. An interesting discussion that leaves me ‘mmmming ‘ a little . On a side issue , it’s surely stretching a point to describe Athens as a a democracy to parallel our Parlt. Democracy. A Democracy? Yes , if we confined the franchise to adult male citizens; otherwise not really…

    1. Never said it parallels Parliamentary Democracy. Nor am I saying it’s a universal suffrage democracy. But it was a democracy.

      If democracy has to be universal suffrage then you’re saying that democracy was invented by New Zealand in 1893 and that the UK wasn’t a democracy until 1928.

      My point is that it’s wrong to say that a referendum is undemocratic. You might say that it is anti-Parliamentary democracy or qualify it in some other way but that would remove the emotive force of the argument itself which is why DAG and others keep peddling it and refuse to properly engage with criticism.

  21. So in order to improve our constitutional process do we all agree that any future referendums should require a super-majority? Including any referendum on whether to abandon Brexit or, at a later date, to rejoin the EU?

  22. What in your opinion is the result of applying Tony Benn’s five tests to (i) the European Commission, (ii) the European Court of Justice and (iii) the European Central bank?

  23. Interesting discussion.

    If Cataluña held a legal referendum on Independence from Spain. The result could possibly be close. Let’s assume 51% in favour 49% against. Cataluña are now Independent.

    This would be irriversable . In order to become part of Spain again. The whole of Spain would need to vote.

    The reality is , there is no perfect system.

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