The EU referendum was flawed

Jon Danzig |

The EU referendum of 2016 was flawed and undemocratic. Here’s a summary of some of the reasons why:

  • If the UK was run on the same democratic principles as the EU, then the UK could not leave the European Union without the unanimous consent of all its four members: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the EU, big changes such as new treaties or enlargement require the agreement of all its 28 member-states. So, however large or small, each EU country has a veto on those changes.

But in the 2016 referendum, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and yet the UK government is still going ahead with Brexit.

That couldn’t happen in the European Union, where unified consent of all member states is required.

  • Similarly, Gibraltar – a British Overseas Territory which also had a vote in the EU referendum and chose by 96% to Remain in the EU – saw their objections to Brexit ignored.

Why offer Gibraltar a vote in the first place if their vote basically – and literally – counted for nothing?

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  • Many people directly affected by the outcome of the referendum were denied a vote.

Britons who’d lived abroad for more than 15 years were not allowed to vote in the referendum. That’s despite the Conservative manifesto promise to scrap the arcane ’15-year rule’, and to give all Britons living abroad ‘Votes for Life’.

But a year before the referendum, the government announced that there would not be time to set-up ‘Votes for Life’ for the referendum.

It meant that many Britons living abroad were excluded from the referendum, even though for those Britons living and working across the EU, the result directly affected them.

And most citizens from the rest of the EU who had made Britain their home, in many cases for decades, were also denied a vote, and again, even though the referendum result directly affected them.

On the other hand, citizens from over 70 nations living in the UK were allowed to vote in the referendum.

These were mostly residents with ‘leave to remain’ in the UK from the Commonwealth countries and British Overseas Territories.

They included citizens living in the UK from Australia, Canada, Ghana, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Only two EU countries are members of the Commonwealth, Malta and Cyprus, and citizens from those countries resident in the UK were also able to vote in the referendum.

As a result of a special treaty signed between Britain and Ireland, Irish citizens living in the UK also had a vote in the referendum.

But citizens from 24 EU countries who made Britain their home, residing here, working here, paying taxes here, and many of whom started families here, had no vote on whether Britain should stay a member of the EU, even though the decision directly affected them.

(See more at: The EU referendum: Who can and can’t vote?)

  • The referendum asked the populace an extremely complicated question and only allowed one of two one-word answers in response, without any opportunity to reconsider, even though over two years later Brexit has still not been delivered, and it looks entirely different to the Brexit promised in the referendum.

We would not make decisions in our own lives in this way.

Even our Parliament does not make decisions in this way. When Parliament considers a decision, it has many debates, multiple votes, usually over several months, and at any stage it can amend or abandon the decision.

But we, the people, only had one vote on one day and… that’s it.

That can hardly be described as a democratic or wise way to come to a decision on any subject, let alone one as complicated as our membership of the EU.

  • The Leave campaign had to rely on lies to win. All the reasons to leave the EU were based on misinformation, mistruths and false promises. (Yes, all of them).

For example, the Leave campaigns lied that £350m was sent every week to the EU; they lied about Turkey joining soon; they lied about the EU not being a democracy; they lied about the EU accounts not being signed-off by the auditors; they lied about plans for an EU army; they lied about Britain having open borders; they lied about 5 million more migrants coming to the UK; they lied about EU migrants bringing down our NHS…

But most of all, the promises that Britons would get ‘their country back’ and ‘take back control’ were empty, cynical and meaningless, as we are now discovering. The country was grotesquely manipulated and misled on a grand and shocking scale.

  • There was not a decisive win for Leave in the referendum.

The difference between Leave and Remain in the referendum was less than 4% – within the ‘margin of error’ for many statistical reports. The country was literally split in two.

  • Only a minority of the electorate voted for Leave, just 37% – the majority either voted for Remain or didn’t vote.

In most democracies around the world that have referendums, a minority of the electorate would not be allowed to impose big changes onto a country.

For big changes in most democratic countries, a majority of the electorate is usually required in a referendum. So that means, in referendums (unlike in general elections), it’s normal for non-voters to count as a vote in favour of the status quo.

Yet, just 37% of the UK electorate is being allowed to permanently change Britain, without the consent of the majority.

Even UKIP would not allow only 37% of its members to change its constitution.

Even under our own law, only 37% of a trade union’s membership would not be sufficient to call for strike action.

Even in our own Parliament, only 37% of MPs would not be sufficient to call for an early general election (on the contrary, two-thirds of MPs are required for that).

  • Although Northern Ireland voted for Remain, just one small Northern Ireland party, the pro-Brexit DUP, is being allowed to have the final say on the province’s (and therefore the UK’s) future relationship with the EU, because that party is keeping Mrs May and her Tories in office.

  • The referendum – by Act of Parliament – was advisory only. But the government has refused to let Parliament have a specific debate and vote to decide whether Britain should leave the EU, claiming that the decision was already made by the referendum.

The referendum, however, was not legally capable of making any decision, as it was an advisory poll only.

This was confirmed by the Supreme Court, which ruled that only Parliament could make the decision on whether the UK should leave the EU – a decision that lawyers claim hasn’t been made by Parliament.

This is now a legal challenge against the government. See

  • The Tory government plans to use ancient Henry VIII powers to prevent Parliament from having a say on which EU laws and protections should be kept, amended or scrapped after Brexit. That’s hardly democratic – or safe.

  • The Tory government does not want our Parliament to have a proper vote on the final Brexit deal. As far as the government is concerned, Parliament only has the choice to accept Mrs May’s deal or to leave with no deal.

Since the referendum result, the government has attempted at every stage to pass Brexit by bypassing Parliament, and to exclude vital information from MPs.

And yet, the promise by the Leave campaigns was that Parliament would gain sovereignty.

In fact, during the entire process, Brexit has weakened Parliament. (Only now, at the last minute, is Parliament attempting to ‘take back control’ from the government on the outcome of Brexit).

  • The referendum was riddled with serious irregularities, illegalities and alleged fraud, resulting in the Leave campaigns being fined for significant overspending and misuse of data.

Evidence has emerged of criminal acts by Vote Leave, Cambridge Analytica, and Aggregate IQ, including illegal overspending, psychologically profiling and targeting people with online ads, based on masses of stolen data.

There is also currently a criminal investigation into Arron Banks, the co-founder of, regarding the source of £8m he made available to the campaign, which the Electoral Commission is suspicious came from a foreign source. That would be illegal under UK law.

All this could have illegally swung the referendum vote in favour of Leave – especially as the margin win for Leave was wafer thin.

There is currently a legal challenge against the government, calling on the referendum to be annulled on the basis that these serious irregularities and illegalities made the result unsafe. See

  • The government is refusing give us, ‘the people’, any further say on Brexit, even though in 2016 we didn’t know the full facts.

No voter could have given their ‘informed consent’ for Brexit in the referendum, because we were not sufficiently informed. On the contrary, we were grievously misinformed.

Over 50 polls since the 2017 General Election all show that Brexit today is not ‘the will of the people’, but the government doesn’t want to know.

In the light of all this, can anyone seriously believe that Brexit is democratic, fair or legitimate?


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