Open Letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May

Dear Prime Minister:

I am writing to request clarification on a number of points relating to the Brexit process and what appears to be government duplicity on the nature of the Referendum.

Would you please clarify why the result of what was an advisory referendum is being implemented without an agreed threshold?

Why did the government conceal the fact that the European Union Referendum Act of Parliament legislated only for a consultative referendum?

Since the referendum of the 23rd June was not a legislative one, in which case it would have specified a threshold, why is it being treated as one?

The referendum was called for in the first instance because it was believed not to result in a Leave majority. So is it the case that the referendum was deemed to be binding at a time when it was believed that Leave was not likely to gain more than 50% of the vote in order to placate the extreme wing of your party?

When the game went wrong and a Leave margin of 3.8% resulted, why did your government continue to obfuscate the distinction between an advisory and a legislative referendum and to muddle the different norms that govern elections (simple majorities) and referenda (super-majorities on major changes to the status quo)?

Referenda are unlike elections in that they require super-majorities, normally 2/3 majority, for major changes to the status quo. When exactly and by whom was it established that only a simple majority was sufficient for the result to be implemented?

The government manifesto proclaimed that the result should be ‘respected’. When exactly and by whom was it decided that ‘respected’ means to be ‘implemented’ and to be implemented without parliamentary approval?

The Leave campaign was fought on the aspirations to ‘regain sovereignty’ and ‘getting control’ and other such slogans. Is it not a blatant contradiction for the executive (government) to entirely disregard the legislative (parliament) when that was their cause? Does the insistence on the Royal Prerogative to implement Brexit not undermine the cherished value of democracy that you claim to be defending?

How can you claim that there is a clear majority in support of such a momentous constitutional change when only a margin of 3.8% was in favour of Leave? 63% of the electorate did NOT vote to leave the EU. More people did not vote than did vote for Brexit. The 52% Leave who voted is a mere 37% of the electorate. How can this relatively small majority be deemed to legitimate the implementation of a consultative referendum?

Are you not concerned about the implications for all those who did not vote because they were disenfranchised (British citizens living abroad,  16-17 year olds) and that at the next election in 2020 there will be a generation of angry young people who were born EU citizens but will have had their liberties and rights taken away by your government?

Yours sincerely,

Gerard Delanty



Professor of Sociology and Social & Political Thought, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
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