The Case for a Second Referendum

Gerard Delanty

Since the outcome of the Referendum of 23rd June 2016 there have been calls for a second referendum. The past few months has seen renewed calls for a referendum. The arguments for and against need to be soberly assessed. I argue here that a lot depends on the specific case that is made and when it is made.

Any discussion on a second referendum is complicated by the specific question that such a referendum might ask and the political context and time when it might be held, for example whether it is a referendum on the ‘final deal’ on the terms of leaving the EU or a more general question of leave or remain, whether such a referendum might be held following a parliamentary rejection of the final deal, following a general election that might see a change of government. The case for a referendum on a final deal is very different from a call for a referendum in the absence of any clarity on what leaving the EU means. Parliament may quite well decide that the final deal will need to be settled by a referendum. This may possibly follow a rejection by parliament of the final deal, thus triggering a political crisis that could be settled only by a referendum.

The case for a second referendum at the present moment is very strong, however the case for one on the final deal is even stronger. It is not just about getting the people to ‘change their minds’, but of settling a matter of major national importance in light of the situation that exists now as opposed to in June 2016 when no information was provided on what leaving the EU entailed.

My analysis is based on the fact that the case for a second referendum now – or in the next six months or so – is very different than in the immediate aftermath of the referendum. Like it or not, it is the only way the problem will be resolved.

Let’s look first at the argument against. The Cameron government decided rightly or wrongly to settle the question of UK’s membership of the EU by referendum and this received (through more or less non-existent scrutiny) parliamentary approval. The outcome of the referendum, it is argued, was definitive and an unalterable decision made by the people and consequently the government has no choice but to implement the ‘decision’. Therefore to have a second referendum would call into question the will of the people and undermine the foundations of democracy. In other words, come what may, regardless of the economic costs, especially to the the poor and future generations denied of their rights, the UK must leave the EU because the outcome of the referendum made it inevitable. For those familiar with political philosophy, it an Hobbesian argument that the social contract once made cannot be changed.

There is another argument, which can be discounted for now, that once invoked, A50 is irreversible (this this almost certainly not the case).

These arguments are wrong for the following reasons (and more or less Lockean reasons, namely that political arrangements can always be reversed if they transpire to harbour tyranny). Democracy may lead to major mistakes, but democracies can also correct their errors.

The Referendum was not designed to settle the question of UK membership of the EU definitively for the simple reason that it was not designed to do so. As a consultative referendum, it was not a legal or political requirement that the result should be implemented. Were this the case, it would have been necessary to have stipulated a number of criteria (principally a super-majority). The government claimed it would implement the decision, but it did not have this right. Only parliament has such a right. This was clarified by the Supreme Court, which decreed in January 2017 that only Parliament can make the decision on whether or not the UK will leave the EU.  Until now, despite the fact that the government has invoked Article 50, parliament has not yet made a decision on whether or not the outcome should be implemented. The proposed withdrawal Bill, has now been amended to give parliament the right to have a ‘meaningful vote on the final deal’. So, this all means that the referendum, as a fact of law and political reality, is not a done deal; it is not a decision.

The outcome of the referendum is not decisive or compelling.  There is no political or moral mandate to implement the outcome. The 3.8 per cent lead that Leave had over Remain was in numbers 1,269501 m votes. That means the swing vote was only 634,751 (that is, if Remain had this many more votes the outcome would be the opposite). It is absurd to claim that this is a decisive figure or that it represents the ‘will of the people’. Yet the government is persisting with a course of action that disguises the small swing vote as a decisive vote.

To implement is not the same as to respect the outcome. The outcome should be respected, but not necessarily implemented as if it were a clear-cut decision. The result of the withdrawal discussions until now make clear that there is nothing clear-cut.

In view of the lies and distorted facts in the Leave campaign, people personally targeted by Cambridge Analytica though various social media sites, and the undoubted fact of Russian interference that has now come to light, further doubt is now cast on the strength of the Leave victory in terms of numbers and its moral standing. Faced against these forces, the swing vote looks a poor basis on which to build a new social and political order.

The small margin for Leave must also be consider the limited franchise that made it possible. While the turnout was relatively high (72.16%) and the size of the franchise (46,501,241 million) was in line with that of most elections, the fact is that a large number of potential voters were not enfranchised to vote: 16-17 year olds, UK nationals living in other EU countries and EU nationals living in the UK. Additionally, a large number of potential voters were not on the register of voters (those in short tern tenancies) and many people failed to get onto the register in the final lead up to the deadline due to the website crashing (possibly because of external interference).

The facts remain that in a population of 65.64 m only 17,410,742 m voted to leave. Of those who voted, 63 per cent did not vote to leave. Only 37 % of the electorate voted to leave. 12.9 million registered voters did not vote and whose views we do not know.  In Scotland and NI the majority vote was Remain.

Still, the government can claim as a technicality that Leave won. That is correct but only a technicality. The problem with the argument is precisely this that it is a legal technicality, but democracy is not reducible to technicalities – it also requires legitimacy. The outcome of elections is, to be sure, settled by such often tiny fractions. This is not the case with referendums in general, which, again, is why the Referendum was a consultative one. In view of the fact that the EU Referendum is about altering the very fabric of British society, it is all the more reason why it needs to be deliberated and subject to every possible form of scrutiny. There is no reason why it should determine the future regardless of all consequences.

This now brings me to the core case for a second referendum: the question put to the electorate was undefined and we are now at a point where, if implemented, it will be defined and there is almost universal anguish about this the long-term consequences of even the best possible deal. Only a small number of MPS (c 40 or so) think the EU is better off outside the EU. Almost every national organisation, business, media, higher education, is sceptical of the claims of the benefits of Brexit, which is being pursued on the mistaken premise that democracy would be undermined by not doing so.

It is not against the spirit of democracy to settle by referendum a second time a question that with the passage of time became clarified. Indeed, it is precisely the nature of democracy that deliberation leads to decisions being revised in light of fresh information and new perspectives. Where previously the question was a vague question about leaving the EU – and which had numerous possible meanings – the result of considerable debate and deliberation over the past 18 months has led to some clarity on what the possible shape of a post-Brexit UK will look like. It does not look good.

It is clear that there is considerable support for a Soft Brexit, though this exists in several possible forms and all with considerable disadvantages, and that there is also wide support for remaining within the EU. A Hard Brexit (exit from the single market and custom’s union) has little popular support. It is evident that the democratic process requires clarity on the outcome and that it is subject to a vote. Even if there is not as yet a huge swing to remain in the EU, there is certainly a massive swing in favour of some kind of Soft Brexit. This is where the real problem resides. Due to the difficulty that the government will have in delivering a Soft Brexit in a form that is in anyway advantageous, there is in this alone a reason for a referendum.

For the moment, it is unlikely that there is political will to hold a second referendum. However, once the shape of the final deal is in place – probably by early autumn – it is imperative that this is settled by a referendum followed by a parliament vote on the outcome. It is likely that by then there will be political momentum in favour of a second referendum.

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Brexit begins to Break-up

Gerard Delanty


The Agreement reached on 7th December 2017 on the UK’s exit from the EU has established significant points of agreement that make a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’ less likely. Overall, this 15 page document is good news for Remain. While some of the worst aspects of Brexit appear to be curtailed, there will inevitably be new questions on the rationale of what in the end can result from the madness that has taken possession of the UK since June 2016.

I will comments here on issues relating to rights and the border issue.

First, on the question of rights of EU and UK citizens, Paragraph 10 establishes that the rights of  UK citizens living and working in the rest of the EU and EU citzens in the UK will be protected, where these citizens have been legally resident by a specified date at some point in the future (probably when the UK leaves the EU).

Paragraph 13 furthermore clarifies that these rights extend to family members (and family members do not need to be in the UK by the defined date). However, it appears these rights do not automatically extend to non-EU family members (Para 14). Para 17 furthermore stipulates that the administrative arrangements will be smooth and avoiding unnecessary burdens (application forms will be short and simple). Overall, this is a significant concession (though it does mean that EU citizens in the UK will have to make an application for residence status). It will of course not compensate for a significant loss in rights of mobility more generally.

Second, as set out in paragraphs 38 and 39 the CJEU will have some competences in intervening in cases not settled by UK law. The extent of this is unclear.

Third, on the question of the border between NI and the Republic, there is an agreement to avoid a hard border, as stated in Para 43, ‘including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls’. Para 44 effectively rules out a sea border between NI and the rest of the UK. Overall, the 1998 Peace Agreement is upheld and effectively given priority over Brexit arrangements.

The commitment to the 1998 Agreement and the related commitment to avoid a hard border with the Republic, all raises the question how is it going to be possible for the UK not to have patrolled border with Republic of Ireland.  It is evident now that there was a basic and irreconcilable contradiction between the 1998 Agreement and Brexit, the resolution of which requires giving the 1998 Agreement priority and thus setting limits to what Brexit can achieve. It is stated in Paragraph 49 that ‘Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements’ (i.e. the ‘protecting North-South cooperation’ and the ‘guarantee of avoiding a hard border’).

The most significant part of the Agreement is stated in Paragraph 49. “In the absence of agreed solutions, the UK will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement”. This is a significant statement. It means that if there is no deal agreed and the UK crashes out of the EU or agrees to something like a Canada relation, the UK will have to adhere to the regulatory order of the Republic of Ireland, in effect the EU!

This is a huge climb-down from the earlier proposal to confine alignment to NI and will haunt all future negotiations. The  DUP did not agree to NI being treated differently to the rest of the UK and thus forced the British government to make concessions that ultimately are not compatible with what either wanted i.e. a clean break with the EU.  The DUP had to choose between the Union with the UK or with EU and in making this choice they were paradoxically forcing the UK into a position that in order to gurrantee the union with NI and at the same keep an open border between NI and the Republic, the whole the UK as a whole will have to remain in an as yet undefined relation with the EU.

The extraordinary outcome of this heap of contradictions is that the UK as a whole must now ‘align’ itself with the Irish Republic and thus by default with the EU. Admittedly, alignment is not the same as convergence or harmonisation, but in practice it cannot be too different. To be sure, it is also a very vague term. Nonetheless, viewed in the context of the agreement to avoid both a land and a sea border with Ireland, it has some meaning (it will not be compatible with a regulatory regime based on WTO rules). This raises some very big questions, such as what is the point of Brexit in the end and why is the UK paying an undisclosed sum of c 50M GBP for it. It is increasingly looking like some kind of a subprime Norway model that will emerge after the two year transitional phase (during which the UK will continue to pay into the EU but have no control). So much for taking back control. Whatever will happen from now will be limited by Paragraph 49.

Then there is the extraordinary concession in Paragraph 52, which states that ‘The people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citzens will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in NI.’ This gives to people in NI rights that are not available to people in other part of the UK. The Scots will have something to say to that, given that they voted decisively to remain in the EU. Indeed, it contradicts the principle dear to the DUP that NI should not be treated differently. This may quite well be the fatal crack in Brexit pot that will lead to its disintegration. Thanks DUP. It means that at least one part of the UK is for all practical purposes remaining in the EU. The realisation will eventually dawn on the rest of the UK that that status might be extended to other parts.

Overall, this is good news for NI, the Republic, and the UK Remain. Brexiters have lost, but don’t know that they have lost. They have lost in part due to the impossible objective of a clear break from the EU and because of the incompetence and ineptitude of Mrs May who has ended up agreeing to something that effectively makes Brexit pointless. The Brexiters have got the green light to progress to trade talks, but the outcome of those talks will be restricted by what is compatible with the 1998 Peace Agreement and the principle stated in Paragraph 49 that the entirety of the UK will have to align with the EU. This can only lead to a Norway model of some sort, not a Canada one or still less  a WTO one. Brexiters will comfort themselves that this unsatisfactory situation can be compensated by unfettered global trade until the objective reality determines that such neoliberal fantasies are not compatible with the principle of alignment.

That all said, a note of caution is in order. The current British government cannot be trusted. Anything is possible. We have just found out this week that Mrs May’s cabinet have not once discussed the kind of Brexit they want. She is beholden to a group of c 35 to 50 hardline nationalist Tory MPs.


The joint report can be viewed here:

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Brexit is not Irreversible

The full text of Lord Keer’s speech:

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  1. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans




3 November 2017

Dear President Juncker, dear President Tusk:

We are scholars, politicians, public intellectuals and members of the European Parliament writing to you with the following concern:

The European Union has proclaimed the Rule of Law principle and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms to be binding on its Member States (Articles 2 and 6 of the Lisbon Treaty). The EU’s leadership has been a staunch protector of these fundamental norms, most recently in countering the Polish government’s attempts to undermine the independence of judges as well as the Hungarian government’s actions to limit civil society and media freedoms.

However, we are deeply concerned that the EU’s governing bodies are condoning the violation of the Rule of Law in Spain, in particular regarding the Spanish central authorities’ approach to the 1 October referendum on Catalan independence. We do not take political sides on the substance of the dispute on territorial sovereignty and we are cognizant of procedural deficiencies in the organisation of the referendum. Our concern is with the Rule of Law as practised by an EU Member State.

The Spanish government has justified its actions on grounds of upholding or restoring the constitutional order. The Union has declared that this is an internal matter for Spain. Issues of national sovereignty are indeed a matter of domestic politics in liberal democracies. However, the manner in which the Spanish authorities have been handling the claims to independence expressed by a significant part of the population of Catalonia constitutes a violation of the Rule of Law, namely:

1/ The Spanish Constitutional Tribunal banned the referendum on Catalan independence scheduled for 1 October, as well as the Catalan Parliament session scheduled for 9 October, on grounds that these planned actions violate Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution stipulating the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, thus rendering secession illegal. However, in enforcing in this way Article 2, the Tribunal has violated Constitutional provisions on freedom of peaceful assembly and of speech – the two principles which are embodied by referendums and parliamentary deliberations irrespective of their subject matter. Without interfering in Spanish constitutional disputes or in Spain’s penal code, we note that it is a travesty of justice to enforce one constitutional provision by violating fundamental rights. Thus, the Tribunal’s judgments and the Spanish government’s actions for which these judgments provided a legal basis violate both the spirit and letter of the Rule of Law.

2/ In the days preceding the referendum, the Spanish authorities undertook a series of repressive actions against civil servants, MPS, mayors, media, companies and citizens. The shutdown of Internet and other telecom networks during and after the referendum campaign had severe consequences on exercising freedom of expression.

3/ On referendum day, the Spanish police engaged in excessive force and violence against peaceful voters and demonstrators – according to Human Rights Watch. Such disproportionate use of force is an undisputable abuse of power in the process of law enforcement.

4/ The arrest and imprisonment on 16 October of the activists Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez (Presidents, respectively, of the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural) on charges of sedition is a miscarriage of justice. The facts resulting in this incrimination cannot possibly be qualified as sedition, but rather as the free exercise of the right to peaceful public manifestation, codified in article 21 of the Spanish Constitution.

The Spanish government, in its efforts to safeguard the sovereignty of the state and indivisibility of the nation, has violated basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as by Articles 2 and 6 of the basic law of the EU (the Lisbon Treaty). The violation of basic rights and freedoms protected by international and EU law cannot be an internal affair of any government. The silence of the EU and its rejection of inventive mediation is unjustifiable.

The actions of the Spanish government cannot be justified as protecting the Rule of Law, even if based on specific legal provisions. In contrast to rule-by-law (rule by means of norms enacted through a correct legal procedure or issued by a public authority), Rule of Law implies also the safeguarding of fundamental rights and freedoms – norms which render the law binding not simply because it is procedurally correct but enshrines justice. It is the Rule of Law, thus understood, that provides legitimacy to public authority in liberal democracies.

We therefore call on the Commission to examine the situation in Spain under the Rule of Law framework, as it has done previously for other Member States.

The EU leadership has reiterated that violence cannot be an instrument in politics, yet it has implicitly condoned the actions of the Spanish police and has deemed the actions of the Spanish government to be in line with the Rule of Law. Such a reductionist, maimed version of the Rule of Law should not become Europe’s new political common sense. It is dangerous and risks causing long-term damage to the Union. We therefore call on the European Council and Commission to do all that is necessary to restore the Rule of Law principle to its status as a foundation of liberal democracy in Europe by countering any form of abuse of power committed by Member States. Without this, and without a serious effort of political mediation, the EU risks losing its citizens’ trust and commitment.

The crisis has in the meantime developed further (the Catalan government was detained, arrest warrant was issued against Mr Puigdemont). We follow closely the situation with the interests of democracy in Catalonia, Spain and Europe in mind, as they cannot be separated, and we insist all the more on the importance for the EU to monitor the respect of fundamental freedoms by all parties.



On the initiative of Albena Azmanova (University of Kent) and Barbara Spinelli (writer, Member of the European Parliament)

Co-signatories (in personal capacity):

Etienne Balibar, université Paris Nanterre and Kingston University London

David Gow, editor, Social Europe

Kalypso Nicolaidis, Oxford University, Director of the Center for International Studies

Mark Davis, University of Leeds, Founding Director of the Bauman Institute

Cristina Lafont, Northwestern University (Spanish citizen)

Ash Amin, Cambridge University

Yanis Varoufakis, DiEM25 co-founder

Rosemary Bechler, editor, openDemocracy

Gustavo Zagrebelsky professor of constitutional law, University of Turin

Antonio Negri, Philosopher, Euronomade platform

Costas Douzinas, Birkbeck, University of London

Robert Menasse, writer, Austria

Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice President of the European Parliament (GUE-NGL)

Ulrike Guérot, Danube University Krems, Austria & Founder of the European Democracy Lab, Berlin

Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley and European Graduate School, Switzerland

Philip Pettit, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University (Irish citizen)

Josep-Maria Terricabras, Member of European Parliament (Greens/EFA)

Hauke Brunkhorst, University of Flensburg

Judit Carrera, Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona

Gabriele Zimmer, Member of European Parliament (President, GUE/NGL)

Philippe Schmitter, European University Institute, Florence

Bart Staes, Member of European Parliament (Flemish Greens)

Marie-Christine Vergiat, Member of European Parliament (GUE-NGL)

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, former minister for foreign affairs and external trade of Iceland 

Diana Wallis, former Vice President of the European Parliament

Craig Calhoun, President, Berggruen Institute; Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Jane Mansbridge, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Josu Juaristi Abaunz, Member of European Parliament (GUE-NGL)

Alyn Smith, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA)

Thor Gylfason, University of Iceland and Research Fellow at CESifo, Munich/former member Iceland Constitutional Council 2011

Jordi Solé, Member of European Parliament (Greens/EFA)

Judith Revel, Université Paris Nanterre

Seyla Benhabib, Yale University; Catedra Ferrater Mora Distinguished Professor in Girona (2005)

Arjun Appadurai, Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin

Susan Buck-Morss, CUNY Graduate Center and Cornell University

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, Member of European Parliament (Alde)

Anastasia Nesvetailova, Director, City Political Economy Research Centre, City University of London

Nancy Fraser, The New School for Social Research, New York (International Research Chair in Social Justice, Collège d’études mondiales, Paris, 2011-2016)

Jill Evans, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA)

Regina Kreide, Justus Liebig University, Giessen

Jodi Dean, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva NY

Tatjana Zdnoka, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA)

Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkley

Roberta De Monticelli, University San Raffaele, Milan.

Sophie Wahnich, directrice de recherche CNRS, Paris

Christoph Menke, University of Potsdam, Germany

Tanja Fajon, Member of the European Parliament (S&D)

Robin Celikates, University of Amsterdam 

Eric Fassin, Université Paris-8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis

Paul Molac, Member of the French Parliament (écologiste)

Alexis Cukier, Université Paris Nanterre

Diogo Sardinha, university Paris/Lisbon

Luke Ming Flanagan, Member of the European Parliament (GUE-NGL)

Dario Castiglione, University of Exeter

Hamit Bozarslan, EHESS, Paris  

Frieder Otto Wolf, Freie Universität Berlin

Gerard Delanty, University of Sussex

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Coimbra University and University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sandro Mezzadra, Università di Bologna

Camille Louis, University of Paris 8 and Paris D

Philippe Aigrain, writer and publisher

Yann Moulier Boutang and Frederic Brun, Multitudes journal

Anne Querrien and Yves Citton, Multitudes journal

Bruce Robbins, Columbia University

Michèle Riot-Sarcey, université Paris-VIII-Saint-Denis

Zeynep Gambetti, Bogazici University, Istanbul (French citizen)

Andrea den Boer, University of Kent, Editor-in-Chief, Global Society: Journal of Interdisciplinary International Relations

Moni Ovadia, writer and theatre performer

Merja Kyllönen, Member of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL)

Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, Université Paris 8 Saint-Denis 

Peter Osborne, Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, London

Ilaria Possenti, University of Verona

Nicola Lampitelli, University of Tours, France

Yutaka Arai, University of Kent

Enzo Rossi, University of Amsterdam, Co-editor, European Journal of Political Theory

Petko Azmanov, journalist, Bulgaria

Etienne Tassin, Université Paris Diderot

Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College, University of London

Danny Dorling, University of Oxford 

Maggie Mellon, social policy consultant, former executive member Women for Independence 

Vanessa Glynn, Former UK diplomat at UKRep to EU

Alex Orr, exec mbr, Scottish National Party/European Movement in Scotland

Bob Tait, philosopher, ex-chair Langstane Housing Association, Aberdeen 

Isobel Murray, Aberdeen University

Grahame Smith, general secretary, Scottish Trades Union Congress

Igor Šoltes, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA)

Pritam Singh, Oxford Brookes University

John Weeks, SOAS, University of London 

Jordi Angusto, economist at Fundació Catalunya-Europa 

Leslie Huckfield, ex-Labour MP, Glasgow Caledonian University

Ugo Marani, University of Naples Federico II and President of RESeT 

Gustav Horn, Scientific Director of the Macroeconomic Policy Institute of the Hans Böckler Stiftung 

Chris Silver, journalist/author 

François Alfonsi, President of EFA (European Free Alliance)

James Mitchell, Edinburgh University

Harry Marsh, retired charity CEO 

Desmond Cohen, former Dean, School of Social Sciences at Sussex University

Yan Islam, Griffith Asia Institute

David Whyte, University of Liverpool

Katy Wright, University of Leeds

Adam Formby, University of Leeds 

Nick Piper, University of Leeds

Matilde Massó Lago, The University of A Coruña and University of Leeds

Jim Phillips, University of Glasgow

Rizwaan Sabir, Liverpool John Moores University

Pablo Ciocchini, University of Liverpool

Feyzi Ismail, SOAS, University of London

Kirsteen Paton, University of Liverpool

Stefanie Khoury, University of Liverpool 

Xavier Rubio-Campillo, University of Edinburgh

Joe Sim, Liverpool John Moores University

Paul Molac, Member of the French Parliament

Hannah Wilkinson, University of Keele

Gareth Dale, Brunel University

Robbie Turner, University of St Andrews

Will Jackson, Liverpool John Moores University

Louise Kowalska, ILTUS Ruskin University

Alexia Grosjean, Honorary member, School of History, University of St Andrews

Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Member of the European Parliament (GUE-NGL)

Paul McFadden, York University

Matthias E. Storme, Catholic University of Leuven

Phil Scraton, Queen’s University Belfast

Oscar Berglund, University of Bristol

Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University

Owen Worth, University of Limerick

Ronnie Lippens, Keele University

Zoë Dingwall, political adviser EFA (European Free Alliance)

Andrew Watterson, Stirling University

Steve Tombs, The Open University

Emily Luise Hart, University of Liverpool

David Scott, The Open University

Anders Eriksson, bureau EFA (European Free Alliance), European Parliament

Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College, University of London

Sofa Gradin, King’s College London

Michael Harrison, University of South Wales

Ana Manzano-Santaella, University of Leeds

Noëlle McAfee, Emory University

Peter J. Verovšek, University of Sheffield 

Peter Dews, University of Essex

Martin Matuštík, Arizona State University (Czech citizen)

Camil Ungureanu, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona 

Dafydd Huw Rees , Cardiff University

Patrick Le Hyaric, Member of the European Parliament (GUE-NGL)

Hans-Peter Krüger, University of Potsdam 

Loren Goldman, University of Pennsylvania

Federica Gregoratto, University of St.Gallen

Rurion Soares Melo, Universidade de São Paulo

Pieter Duvenage, Cardiff University and editor, Journal for Contemporary History

Chad Kautzer, Lehigh University

Peter A. Kraus, University of Augsburg

David Ingram, Loyola University  of Chicago

Alain-G. Gagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal

Peter Bußjäger, Institut für Föderalismus, Innsbruck

Nelly Maes, Former Member of the European Parliament, former President of European Free Alliance

Helmut Scholz, Member of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL)

Michel Seymour, Université de Montréal

Simon Toubeau, University of Nottingham

Georg Kremnitz, Universität Wien

Keith Gerard Breen, Queen’s University Belfast

Alan Price, Swansea University

Fernando Ramallo, Universidade de Vigo

Nicolas Levrat, University of Geneva, Director of the International Law Department

Jordi Matas, Professor of Political Science, University of Barcelona

Simon Toubeau, University of Nottingham

María Pilar García Negro, University of Coruña

María do Carme García Negro, University of Santiago de Compostela

Francisco Rodríguez, writer

Carme Fernández Pérez-Sanjulián, University of Coruña

Patrice Poujade, Université de Perpignan

Colin H Williams, Cardiff and Cambridge  University

Nicolas Berjoan, Université de Perpignan

Joan Peitavi, Université de Perpignan

Alà Baylac-Ferrer, Université de Perpignan

Guglielmo Cevolin, University of Udine, Italy

Robert Louvin, Professor of Comparative Law, University of Calabria

Günther Dauwen, Secretary General of the Centre Maurits Coppieters

Bart Maddens, Catholic University of Leuven

Alan Sandry, Swansea University

Justo Serrano Zamora, Bavarian School of Public Policy

Ivo Vajgl, Member of the European Parliament (Alde)

Alberto Aziz Nassif, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, México

Sandrina Antunes, University of Minho, Portugal

Pablo Beramendi, Duke University

Nico Krisch, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Miguel Urbán Crespo, Member of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL)


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Brexit Must be Stopped

Gerard Delanty

The Leader of the Labour Party has re-stated his positon, which is the de facto policy of the party, that the outcome of the Referendum of 23rd June 2016 must be respected. By this he clearly means it must be implemented and thus agrees in substance with the position of the Conservative government. The only disagreements are on matters of the procedure by which the UK should leave the EU.

I wish to ask, again, the question why the outcome of the Referendum must be implemented in light of the following facts:

First, there is the fact that the Referendum was itself an unbinding advisory referendum. It was not a legislative one, which means that it did not need to be implemented. This is why in the Act that enabled the Referendum safeguards were not put in place to mitigate against a small majority (for example a qualifying threshold).  Yet, it is constantly presented as a decision that we are locked-into. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public on the legal status of the Referendum.

Second, on the legal aspect, if there is any doubt about the legal necessity to implement the outcome, the Supreme Court ruled that the Referendum did not constitute a decision to leave the European Union. That decision would have to be made by Parliament and would need an Act of Parliament.

Such a decision has not been made and nor has an Act of Parliament been made. A Notice of Withdrawal Bill was presented in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling. However, this did not include a withdrawal decision. The bill was a mechanism for notification of a decision, which has not yet been made. A notification is not a decision. Yet, the Government has falsely claimed that the Referendum was a withdrawal decision. This is a false claim and contrary to the Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the sovereignty of parliament.

The false claim that the decision was already made precluded parliamentary debate about the Referendum result. Parliament has not debated the Referendum result. Neither the Referendum result nor the Notice of Withdrawal provided the constitutionally required decision to leave.

Third, as to the political necessity to execute the outcome as ‘will of the British people’, the simple facts need to be re-stated. Only 37 % of the electorate voted to Leave the EU. A very large number of people entitled to vote were not on the voting register, many of them – those most affected by the outcome – were disfranchised.

The 3.8% majority won by Leave is a small majority for such a major change to the status quo and one that leads to the abrogation of rights currently held, in particular the rights held by young people. It cannot be argued that there is a large or clear majority in favour of Leave. Not much more than 25% of the UK population support Leave. There is no unquestioned mandate. The reality is that the UK is deeply divided.

Four, the Leave campaign was itself driven by lies which were not challenged by the government. In view of the above – the deliberate attempt to conceal the fact that the referendum result is irreversible and the ‘will of the people’ – the integrity of democracy is diminished. It is not the case that decisions cannot be reversed. Indeed, it is part of the democratic process to check and revise decisions in light of changing circumstances. Referendums may have their place, but they are only one part of the democratic process. Public opinion has already shifted against Brexit in realisation of the negative economic consequences that will almost certainly follow.

Five, it is clear that it is not in the national interest for the UK to leave the EU. Yet, the Government is pursuing this destructive goal, which, with some exceptions, has the support of the Labour party.

The UK will lose its world standing and will be isolated from the EU and severed from its largest trading partner. It does not have in place alternative trading arrangements that will compensate for the exclusion from the EU single market. It is evident that the government’s plans to implement Brexit are clearly going badly wrong.  There was never an analysis of the risks and all advice given to the government on the catastrophic outcome for industry, trade and finance were ignored and concealed from public scrutiny. The direction of travel is plainly catastrophic. It is clearly a serious dereliction of the duty of parliamentarians to give their support to a cause that has no foundation in legal necessity or political reason.

Why is this madness that derives from a small group of ultra-nationalist MPs taken on such a magnitude and received the acquiescence of the majority of MPs who know it is foolhardy? The Referendum was driven by the David Cameron’s desire to solve an internal problem in his party – and which has manifestly failed – but was bizarrely given parliamentary assent with the backing of Labour MPs.

The majority of MPs are in favour of the UK remaining within the EU – or remaining within the Single Market – yet they have surrendered reasoned deliberation for a panic-stricken endorsement of nationalist isolationism that has now left the democratic process paralyzed.

The inescapable conclusion is that it is clearly time to stop Brexit.

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Why the EU must not give the UK a good deal

Gerard Delanty

The British government has misled the British population and the rest of the EU concerning the referendum of the 23rd June 2016. The Labour Party has colluded with the government in a monumental act of deception.

The first and most important consideration is that there is absolutely nothing binding in the outcome of the referendum. The referendum was a consultative one; it was not a legislative one. Such referendums are by definition not binding and are clearly define in law. MPs and governmental officials were briefed on this and fully aware of the non-binding nature of the referendum. Yet, they disguised the fact that it was a non-binding referendum and constructed a wall of silence on this legal fact.

Secondly, the margin of 3.8% in favour of Leave is by any standards a small margin for such major change. The 52% Leave who voted Leave are a mere 37% of the electorate. 63% of the electorate did NOT vote to leave the EU. There is no popular mandate for Brexit. Contrary to the statement constantly repeated by politicians, there is nothing decisive about the outcome. It is not the ‘will of the people’ but the will of a small segment of the population. On any reasonable account, 48/52 vote represents an indecisive outcome:  17.4 m voted Leave; 16.1m voted Leave. No politician has explained why this might be decisive. The government in any case did not set a threshold nor did they state that the outcome would be settled by a simple majority. The referendum is nothing more than an opinion poll taken on a specific day and only commands the support of 17.4 m, who are a minority of the UK electorate and a yet smaller minority of the UK population.

Third, the referendum is a betrayal of democracy for many reasons, but notably for not including UK nationals living in other EU countries and 16/17 year olds who would normally be entitled to vote. In view of the above this needs to be considered.

Four, the electorate was asked to vote whether the UK should leave the EU. Nothing was specified about the form that this might take. There is nothing to indicate that the majority of people approve of the so-called hard Brexit course. British business, financial institutions, the civil services and universities are opposed. The government has little support for leaving the EU; yet it is driving ahead and seeking to transfer more powers from parliament to the government.

The government has disguised the fact that the outcome was not binding.  Prior to the 23rd June it did so because it believed it would win and needed to take on board the radical right wing populist wing of the Conservative Party as well as UKIP.  On losing the vote, the new hardline right wing government led by the authoritarian Theresa May has taken advantage of the opportunity created by the referendum to drive through what is in effect a new neo-liberal policy of open markets/de-regulation that does not have wide public support. The entire Conservative Party and much of the deeply divided Labour Party has gone along with an insane drive to reverse several decades of legislation for no clear gains.

The government has sought to prevent parliament from making a decision on whether the outcome should be implemented and has sought to implement its own interpretation of what leaving the EU entails. The Supreme Court challenged this course and handed down a judgement that required parliamentary approval for UK to leave the EU  (on the grounds that the EU legislation has changed national legislation by introducing new rights and therefore only parliament can approve of the abrogation of such rights). It argued that the referendum is not itself binding, but requires parliamentary approval. This approval has not yet been given. The notification to the EU delivered by the PM on 29th March 2016 rests only on a bill of notification. The decision that was to be notified has not yet been made. The House of Commons did not explicitly vote that the UK will leave the EU. Aside from lacking public support, the delivery of the notification rests on very questionable constitutional grounds.

The road ahead is detrimental for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and Scotland. UK nationals living in other EU countries and EU nationals living in the UK.

The EU is not obliged to offer the UK a fair deal. It ought to offer the worst possible deal. It can only be hoped that the British parliament will come to its senses over the next two years and vote against a future deal, since such a deal will be by definition worse than the present situation. Brexit can be stopped.

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Last Chance to Stop Brexit

by Gerard Delanty

It is now becoming clear that Teresa May and her government are implementing Brexit to achieve a new wave of neo-liberal globalisation. They must be stopped. They want to trigger A50 and leave the EU in order to for the UK to become a global trading nation. The outcome of the Referendum of 23rd June 2016 is an excuse to achieve this insane objective.

Clearly May is not remotely interested in the reasons why people voted to leave the EU any more than she cares about the 48 per cent you voted to remain in the EU. This is also why she has been opposed to the referendum outcome being debated and voted on in parliament. Now, we see the pathetic sight of the Prime Minster seeking deals with two of the world’s tyrants to realise the myopic dream of Britannica riding the waves of the world’s economies.

Parliament has failed on two counts. First, it made a historical error in allowing the EU Referendum Act pass through parliament in the second half of 2016. The MP David Cameron has been rightly vilified for initiating the act in the first place in order to placate the Euro-sceptical wing of his party and ward off the danger posed by UKIP. That is all well-known and MPs would undoubtedly like it to remain as simple as that. However the reality is that this poorly conceived act was voted through parliament with little scrutiny (in June 2015  544 MPs voted for it, against 53) and it received it final approval by parliament in December 2015 with 316 MPs voting for it and 53 against – which leaves a lot of MPs who did not vote either way.

While the majority of MPs were for Remain, since the 24th June 2016 these Remain MPs, with some exceptions, remained strangely silent and did not press for parliament to vote on the outcome. Why is this? Why did they wait until the courts enforced the government give parliament the final say? Was it because they realised their mistake; or because they accepted the bizarre order of the party leader Jeremy Corbyn to support leave; or because they believed that the outcome was decisive?

The outcome is not decisive, as is now clear for everyone to see. The majority of 3.8% does not offer a justification to embark on the project that the government has in mind. A minority of British citizens support the government. Many of those who voted to Leave did so as a protest against globalisation, which is now likely to be on a different scale and with no obvious advantages for anyone.

MPs have a duty to assert their authority over the government and to vote with their consciousness. There is some sign that a number of Labour MPs are waking up to the spectre of disaster that will unfold in the next years unless the government is stopped.

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