Ten reasons why it is not undemocratic for MPs to vote against invoking Article 50

  1. MPs have a duty to do what they think is right and in the best interests of the UK.
  2. The referendum was not an election, the result of which could be reversed at the next general election.
  3. Democracy does not begin and end on a single day.  People change their minds in light of new information and it is childish to hold them to their first answer like gameshow contestants.
  4. Large numbers of people were denied the right to vote in the referendum
  5. The referendum result was close, and insufficient for such a large, irrevocable constitutional change.
  6. Parliament had clearly decided that the referendum was advisory.
  7. It was and is unclear what leaving the EU would mean. People were forced to vote blind.
  8. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto was clear that whatever happened, the UK would remain a member of the single market, which is not the government’s plan.
  9. Two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and the UK leaving would amount to them being dragged out against their democratic will.
  10. The electorate was misled. Deliberately and repeatedly misled.

Detail

1. MPs have a duty to do what they think is right and in the best interests of the UK.  

  • It is not democratic for an MP to vote in favour of something they believe or know to be damaging to the UK and its population.
  • To do this would be an abrogation of their moral and democratic duty.

2. The referendum was not an election, the result of which could be reversed at the next general election. 

  • It is also not a standard piece of legislation that can be revoked by future parliaments
  • Leaving the EU will be irrevocable and will affect every person in the UK for the rest of their lives.

3. Democracy does not begin and end on a single day.

  • It is not clear at all that, as the realities of the UK leaving the EU become apparent, it would continue to be the will of the people to do so.
  • It is patronising and childish to deny people the right to change their mind in light of new information.

4. Large numbers of people were denied the right to vote in the referendum

This included:

  • EU citizens permanently resident in the UK (3 million approx);
  • 16 and 17 year olds, who had been eligible to vote in the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014, and who the Government said it would have been “too complicated” to allow to vote in the EU referendum (1 million approx);
  • and UK citizens living in other EU Member States for more than 15 years, including those employed by the EU institutions (1 million approx, though possibly many more).

5. The referendum result was close, and insufficient for such a large, irrevocable constitutional change.

  • Of those eligible to vote, only 37.5% voted to leave the EU, meaning 62.5% did not vote to leave.
  • While people on both sides talk about the 17 million for, or the 16 million against leaving, the reality is that only 1.3m people out of a population of 64.1 million effectively decided the entire future of the UK.
    • Almost all other countries require either 50% of the electorate or 60% of those who vote for major constitutional change.
    • The reason this was not required in this case is because the referendum was advisory, and it was therefore unnecessary.

6. Parliament had decided that the referendum was advisory.  

  • The legislation passed by Parliament was clear on this. The referendum has no constitutional status in the way that it would in, for example, Ireland.
  • MPs were made aware of this by House of Commons briefing papers before passing the Act, and this is in the public domain.
  • MPs could have chosen to make the referendum binding, as, for example, the Alternative Vote referendum was, but they chose not to.*

7. It was and is unclear what leaving the EU would mean. 

  • It could mean anything from being in the EEA and EFTA, which would require freedom of movement and EU laws, but would be less economically damaging, to a complete break (‘hard’ or ‘dirty’ Brexit) which would not require freedom of movement, but would be extremely economically damaging.
  • Those who voted Leave were therefore voting for a very wide spectrum of possible outcomes, not a single one.

8. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto was clear that whatever happened, the UK would remain a member of the single market.  

  • The government’s position on freedom of movement makes this impossible to achieve.

9. Two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and the UK leaving would amount to them being dragged out against their democratic will. 

  • In the case of Scotland, this may be contrary to the Act of Union of 1707 which formed the UK, and, in the case of Northern Ireland, will undermine the Good Friday Agreement, which is an international treaty with Ireland which rests on EU law.
  • It may also lead to the new EU external border between the UK and Ireland becoming a hard border, contrary to this agreement.

10. The electorate was deliberately misled.

  • Serving Government ministers and MPs from both major parties in the Leave campaign, including the current Foreign Secretary, repeatedly and knowingly lied to voters on many aspects of the EU.
  • This included the famous £350m claim, but also many others such as claims that the UK did not control its own non-EU immigration, that the EEA could be joined without agreeing to free movement of people, and that trade deals with third countries and even with individual EU Member States could be entered into immediately after the vote.
  • When consumers are misled, the law seeks to protect them and for restitution to be made.  We do not blame them for believing untrue claims, and nor do we tell them that they are stuck with the product they bought under false pretences.

*This has been amended as the post mistakenly said that Referendum on Scottish Independence was legally binding.  It was, in fact, not, and would have also required an Act of Parliament had the result been Yes.  The 2011 referendum on replacing First Past the Post with the Alternative Vote system was  however legally binding.  Thanks to Austin Harrington for the spot!

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9 thoughts on “Ten reasons why it is not undemocratic for MPs to vote against invoking Article 50

  1. All trumped by the one that says, “A member of Parliament who ignores the clear wishes of a majority of his constituents, will not get re-elected.” Most constituencies in the UK voted out. Get used to it.

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    • I’m afraid that doesn’t trump it at all. It is up to the individual MP as to how they want to deal with this. There are very many constituencies where the the result was only a couple of thousand in favour of Leave, and polling data shows that many Leave voters would change their vote if given a second chance. My point is not even that MPs should vote against Article 50 – it is that they should vote according to what they believe will be best for their constituency and their country. Surely you agree that an MP voting for something they know to be bad for the country would be a perversion of their duty?

      Alternatively a) all MPs should have a poll in their constituency before voting on any issue; and b) all those in already remain-voting constituencies should vote against invoking Article 50. Let’s do that, now that the cost of Brexit is being exposed.

      Look, if it had been 50% of those eligible to vote, or even 60-40of those who did vote in in favour of Leave, I’d shut up and go about my business. It wasn’t. It was very close – way to close for a major, irrevocable constitutional change – and evidence shows that well over the margin (1.3m people) who voted to leave would now vote to remain.

      Anybody can be conned, and Leave voters were conned by a well-financed, we’ll-targetted campaign into believing that there could be a better economy with lower migration from the EU if the UK left. That is, as the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and May, Johnson and Davies’ disastrous visits to Brussels have shown is simply not possible, and not going to happen.

      There’s nothing wrong with anyone admitting that they were conned, and demanding that it be put right. I’ve bought shit products that don’t do what the manufacturer told me they would do, and I’ve gone and got my decision to buy them reversed.

      This was not an election, where one side ‘wins’ and the other looses, with it all done again in 5 years. It is the entire future of every single person in the UK, who will now, and for at least 10-20 years, be worse off.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent list. Under item 10, I would add the fact that there was no oversight of the information fed to voters and no official means of challenging lies. I emailed both the Electoral Commission and the Vote Leave campaign 2 weeks before the vote, to complain about one of their misleading leaflets which was labelled ‘Official’ on the front page and had Vote Leave in small letters on the back page. The electoral comission said they could do nothing about campaign literature, and Vote Leave didn’t even bother to reply.

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  3. A lot of very good points and well presented. I’m a little puzzled by this, though;

    “Of those eligible to vote, only 37.5% voted to leave the EU, meaning 62.5% did not vote to leave.”

    I keep seeing these figures trotted out. Whilst technically true, the presentation is misleading. Only cast votes count. While it is true to say that those who did not vote at all did not vote to leave, but it is disingenuous to suggest that necessarily means they wish to remain.

    Simply, they did not vote.

    Their opinion is unknown and their uncast vote should not be statistically appropriated by either side.

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    • Excellent question. If we were talking about an election, you would be absolutely right. No party can claim the votes of those who did not vote, and it would be disingenuous to try to do so.

      A procedure to make a major constitutional change is a different matter though. In most countries that have a written, codified constitution, the rules on changing the constitution presume in favour of the status quo. For example, the upcoming referendum in Italy is necessary because the Italian government could not get the two-thirds majority in Parliament necessary for a change to the Italian constitution. In the US, an amendment requires a two-thirds majority of both Houses and the ratification of 3/4 of the state legislatures.

      The requirements in the Irish constitution are less onerous, but still require that both the Dáil and the Senate approve an amendment before there is a referendum on it. In the UK-EU case, the UK Parliament approved a non-binding referendum on the issue, but not the change itself.

      The reason for the widespread presumption in favour of the status quo is that constitutions are permanent, or semi-permanent, whereas a government or a piece of normal legislation is temporary – it can be changed at the next election or by a future Parliament. Constitutions set the overall framework for government, and therefore require a further safeguard, or check or balance, on them to ensure that changes are not made trivially or for short-term political gain.

      The Brexit referendum was on the most major constitutional change to the UK for 40 years, and it is therefore reasonable to require the majority of people, not just those who voted, to actively favour it for a mandate to be considered viable. This does not mean that the Remain side can consider those that voted to be actively in favour of remaining, but it does mean that they can be considered to not be actively in favour of leaving the EU, which is the option of the two that means major constitutional change.

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  4. 1) I agree that an MP voting in favor of something damaging to the UK population is not what they are meant to do, with that said they have to balance the scales and consider many different factors. Just because the economy will take a hit it doesn’t mean there is no positives to be gained in other areas, they need to evaluate the entire picture and decide whether the vote is going to be best for Britain in the long term. Meaning something you personally deem damaging for them to vote for doesn’t mean they will see it the same way.

    Take a look at the amount of damage been done across the EU because of Merkels open border policy and EU migrant quotas. Mass rapes, huge spikes in crimes, immigrants Rioting across the EU, trashing refugee centers, murders, trying to impose sharia law in places, CHILD brides being LEGAL in Germany and other EU member states, it’s absolutely disgusting and allowing the free movement of people is reckless.

    2) The referendum as you say was not an election and is certainly not legally binding, however parliament already voted 6 to 1 that whatever the outcome of the referendum, that is what would be followed through with. This means that Parliament already decided BEFORE the election that the result whatever the outcome will be delivered, the MP’s already agreed and voted on this. It would be a betrayal to the British people if they go against what they already voted on because the vote didn’t go the way they wanted.

    3) Everyone knew that the vote to leave the EU was a vote to get back control of ours borders, have the final say on our own laws and become a sovereign nation again, with the ability to make our own trade deals. If staying in the single market for example means having the free movement of people, it would be a betrayal to go with that. People can change their minds but what if something happens in the EU and they change their minds again, can we just keep leaving and joining every time we change our mind? Of course not and also if the vote was to remain you’d be fine with the government having the final say, don’t try to deny it.

    4) These people being denied the right to vote is for valid reasons, these same people are not allowed to vote in our general elections.

    5) This is our biggest turn out we have ever had and Trumps any general election, whilst I agree with your premise that it is a much bigger issue the fact of the matter is it was made absolutely clear before the vote that any margin of victory stands, if you wanted to argue this, it should have been done BEFORE the election, not after. You don’t change the rules of the game after you lose.

    6) They could have made it binding but the matter of fact is they said 6 to 1 that a no matter the outcome of the vote, it will be followed through. It’s ironic because most points you make now if remain won and the same points were used against you, I know for a fact you’d simply dismiss them all, let us not kid ourselves here.

    7) It was made 100% clear that a vote to leave meant leaving the single market, it means having control of our borders back, the ability to make our own laws, our own trade deals and have the final say as a nation, as oppose to a political union. Anything that undermines those things is NOT what was voted for, that much is absolutely clear. It’s funny how you keep telling the ones who voted differently to yourself that they didn’t know what they were voting for, I could argue the same amount remain voters.

    8) If it is not legally possible for them to keep the promise due to the result of the referendum and what was campaigned on as David Cameron himself said a vote to leave the EU is a vote to leave the single market.

    9) Mute point, the vote to leave the EU was done as the UK, Scotland ironically had their Scottish referendum to decide whether or not to remain in the UK and it’s beautifully ironic is that is because they wanted to be sovereign, yet now they suddenly want to remain in the EU? Funny how they are constantly a net beneficiary of being in the EU and they vote heavily for remain, very strange indeed. Also you don’t speak for the Scottish or Ireland, they speak for themselves, if Scotland doesn’t like the outcome and Nicola is so confident, she should hold another Scottish referendum and it would fail again, she knows it else she’d push for one.

    10) Both the remain and leave campaign misled people such as George Osborunes lie about each family losing an average of £4,300 per year if we vote to leave, that was an outright lie and you can research this for yourself. The fact of the matter is the UK people voted for :
    – Control of our own borders.
    – The ability to make and decide our own trade deals..
    – The ability to make and have the final say on our own laws, becoming a sovereign nation.
    – No free movement of people.

    Stop trying to tell leave voters what they voted for, I’m a leave voter and I know exactly what I voted for and none of the ‘lies’ you mentioned I ever heard or taken in to consideration, in the same way I ignored the lies from the remain camp who predicted so much doom, gloom and disaster and oh look, none of it came to pass. In fact unemployment is at an 11 year low, the remain camp said a leave vote would raise unemployment, they said companies would flee us on mass, we would lose investments.

    Google is investing £1 billion to our tech center AND more companies are opening up businesses here creating 10,000’s of jobs.

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    • I don’t think it was made 100% clear that a vote to leave the EU inevitably meant leaving the single market. And nor does Stephen Phillips, the Tory MP who voted Leave and who has now resigned his seat. He wrote an article in the Guardian in October which said:
      ” I also thought that if there were a vote to leave the EU, the outward-looking, internationalist face of modern multicultural Britain would win through: that although we would leave the EU, we would remain in the single market to which the manifesto of every major political party at the last election committed us – a market on which our prosperity as a nation, and our ability to raise the taxes to pay for public services, is founded.”

      As for your assertions about the predictions of George Osborne, they may have been exaggerated or poorly explained, but we haven’t actually triggered Article 50 yet, so can’t assess their validity.

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