The Referendum result was 17,410,742 votes to Leave (51.9%) and 16,141,241 votes to Remain (48.1%).
Many people, including some ill-advised European Union officials, seem to have assumed that this is the end of the matter and that HM Government should now proceed directly to the procedure laid down in the EU Treaties to withdraw from the European Union. See this BBC Report: “Brexit referendum: EU ministers press UK for quick exit.”
In the constitutional arrangements of other countries, the result of a referendum may have automatic binding effect and ministers of the governments of other EU countries may not be wholly aware of the different constitutional arrangements in the United Kingdom.
But the Commission President, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker is in a different league. Since he presides over the Commission he ought to be aware of the constitutional settlements of the different member states, and if he is not aware, then he ought to have checked the position with the legal team which serves the Commission.. Herr Martin Schultz, who presides over the EU Parliament ought also to have obtained some assistance with the legal steps the UK government needs to take before it can invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Referenda in the UK
In the constitutional arrangements of the UK, a referendum only has advisory effect unless the legislative act providing for the referendum expressly so provides.
David Allen Green, a City solicitor and a former Treasury Solicitor makes the point in an article in the Financial Times: “Can the United Kingdom government legally disregard a vote for Brexit?”
As Mr Green points out: “The relevant legislation did not provide for the referendum result to have any formal trigger effect. The referendum is advisory rather than mandatory. The 2011 referendum on electoral reform did have an obligation on the government to legislate in the event of a “yes” vote (the vote was “no” so this did not matter). But no such provision was included in the EU referendum legislation.”
See also this article by Haroon Siddique in The Guardian: “ Is the EU referendum legally binding?”
In simple terms, before invoking the procedure set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty the UK Government needs to obtain authority to proceed from Parliament.
Although Mr Cameron has signified his intention to resign his office and started the process for the election of a new leader for his party, he and the other Ministers of the Crown are still HM Government and all kinds of people , including the governments of the other Member States of the EU and the Commission, might reasonably expect to know when HM Government will seek from Parliament the authority to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Parliamentary Support for Brexit
There is a very good case for any vote in Parliament on this issue to be a “free” vote.
UKIP currently has only one MP to its name and therefore his vote for or against approving withdrawal from the EU is not going to matter too much. Indeed, it might be exceedingly difficult for HM Government to obtain a majority for approval of the referendum outcome even on a free vote.
Brexiteers are a minority in both the Conservative and Labour parties. Further, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and both the SNP and the English members who wish to encourage Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom might prefer to remain in the EU rather than rekindle the need for another referendum on that issue just now. Some Northern Ireland members have concerns about the border with the Republic of Ireland.
Some of the disadvantages of Brexit have already become apparent. Parliament in its wisdom might properly conclude that those campaigning for a Leave vote did not make out a proper case and instead relied on an arguably improper case made on bogus sovereignty and immigration issues.
There is already in being a parliamentary petition: EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum. It has already had 1,363,761 signatures which is a greater number than the majority Leave has over Remain in the Referendum count.
Post Referendum – Gibraltar
As might have been expected, Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to Remain. But when reports came in that the UK had voted Leave, Gibraltarians were worried. See this Gibraltar Chronicle report: “Worry and sadness on Main Street at Brexit news“.
The Gibraltarians were right to worry. The Spaniards have once again seized an excuse to seek to take control of the Rock. See this BBC report: “Brexit: Spain calls for joint control of Gibraltar”.
As the Gibraltar Chronicle reports: “Britain reaffirms sovereignty commitment after vote”.
But there’s no doubt about it – The Brexit vote has let the Gibraltarians down.
Post Referendum – City of London
Many of the big banks are now preparing to move their operations to Paris or Frankfurt because UK “passporting” will go. See this FT Report: “Banks begin moving some operations out of Britain (£)”
A substantial proportion of the 115,000 highly paid jobs in the banking sector may have to be moved across the channel. Other financial services companies will be similarly affected.
Having been Mayor of London for two terms, Clown Boris must have been fully aware of what he going to do to the City. Yet he went ahead just the same.
The Conservative Home Blog which seems to be well peopled with Brexiteers has this post: “The Conservative leadership contest. Cameron’s plan to stop Johnson“.
While I rather doubt the veracity of the story, if the Prime Minister were indeed trying to ensure that his successor were not Boris Johnson, that could only be because the Prime Minister is now only too well aware of the need to protect the nation from Clown Boris and those of his ilk.