Can Parliament vote against Brexit?

Regardless of the cries of the Brexiteers, the answer is simple. It can, if it wants to. Here’s why;

First and foremost Members of Parliament are representatives, they are not delegates. As representatives, they are free to, and it is their duty to, exercise their own judgement. Members cannot be and should never be prevented from exercising their conscience in casting their votes.

This duty applies in even greater measure to Peers. As (self-proclaimed) trustees of the nation, they must be willing to take decisions counter to the public mood when they consider it to be in the national interest. I cannot see any advantage to an unelected chamber that merely follows the mood of the electorate.

The second argument is one of the oldest and most powerful of liberal arguments. It’s the one advanced by Thomas Paine when Edmund Burke set out to repudiate the right of the French to determine their own destiny.

In his attack on the French Revolution, Burke argued, wrongly, that the social contract of a nation was eternal, that it was bequeathed to them by the past and was, therefore, unalterable by any people in the present or future. In other words, he was arguing that past decisions made by the courts, Parliament, or the nation could not be overturned by the present people in their parliament.

In his Rebuke to this, Thomas Paine, one of liberalism’s greatest lights, contended that only the present, not the past, had the right to shape the future. In this liberal view, no decision – however determined – is eternally binding. From the victory of Paine’s argument comes one of the core tenets of parliamentary sovereignty: the idea that no Parliament can bind its successors.

To accept that Parliament cannot argue against, object to, and overturn a prior decision – either by the nation or a previous parliament – would be to accept the central tenant of conservatism. That it is the past, not the present, which should determine the future. That a decision, once made, has been settled for all time.

This is the argument that inhabits the mind of every aspirant dictator and forms the basis of their claim to power. The increasingly autocratic ruler of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, probably expressed this sentiment best when he reportedly said,”Democracy is like a train. Once you reach your destination, you get off”.

Democracy is not like a train. It is not a destination we arrive at. It is an evolving discussion that is never done. In a democracy, no question, once answered, is settled forever. Beware of anyone claiming otherwise, for they are claiming an irrevocable authority from the past that does not exist.

It is always for the present, not the past, to determine the future. We may choose to be informed and guided by the past but we are not, and can never be, bound by it.

* Scott Craig is a member of the Liberal Democrats, currently living in Edinburgh

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  • William Ross 16th Nov '16 - 5:28pm


    If the Supreme Court rules against the Government in the Article 50 case you are technically correct. Parliament can vote against Article 50, in the same way that the members of the US Electoral College can vote against Trump ( at least in over 20 states) even if he won the popular vote in these states.

    But the point is that the people voted Leave and were told by the Government that it would do as they instructed. This is democracy and the referendum is over. There is nothing to stop you from campaigning for the UK to rejoin, but I think you know where that is going…

    Even if Parliament votes on Article 50 the result is a foregone conclusion. Labour will vote with the Government. There will be a few dissenters. The SNP will vote against safe in their Scottish fastness. You have no such fastness………

  • I agree representatives, should never be prevented from voting according to their consciences, I doubt many would vote against their constituency lightly.
    Equally constituents have the right to lobby, and review the voting record of their m.p.
    We can prob all agree that which ever way this goes, the debate and campaign will continue. Britain seems to have had a somewhat love / hate relationship with Europe over the years I don’t see that changing any time soon.

  • It can do, but if its members think that many of them will be re-elected by voting against the declared choice of voters in their constituencies, then they are likely to be disappointed.

  • A surprising stance for a ‘liberal democrat’.

  • ethicsgradient 16th Nov '16 - 8:37pm

    Cllr Mark Wright is absolutely correct:

    “Cllr Mark Wright 16th Nov ’16 – 8:07pm
    Yes, after directly asking the voters a question (and remember, both houses passed the EU Referendum Act), Parliament could then simply ignore the answer the voters gave because it wasn’t the right answer. But if parliament *ever* wants the British voters to trust politicians again, it world be utterly insane to do that.”

    I think again, the referendum is trying to be fought again and the result of the referendum ignored. Over the last week I have seen the following:

    1. It was just an opinion poll/ a snapshot of one day in June….. No it wasn’t! There was 3 months of campaigning (6 months in reality) where both sides stated their cases, both sides exaggerated and told lies and both sides refuted each others arguments/statements. 33.5 million voted out of million franchise. That is not a snap poll of a 1000 people on 1 day.

    2. MP’s can use their own judgement and just vote against. Yes the could, but this ignores 2 basic facts. The referendum was voted for 6-1 thus passing the decision making responsibility to the general electorate. 2nd, Most Mp’s have majorities in constituencies that vote overwhelming to leave. I would bet good money they would be turfed out at the net election for voting against the referendum decision.

    3. The referendum was only advisory. Ok so it seems all referenda in the UK are advisory unless explicitly stated. Try telling that to a population who for 3 months had everyone on both sides saying the will of the people would be honoured. Just to reinforce that the governments own £9million pamphlet drop stated that the ” the government will implement what you decide”.

    4. A vote to leave was not a vote to leave the single market. As Andrew neil showed both sides said this is exactly what voting to leave the EU would entail. I.e. control of freedom of movement is not compatible with membership of the single market.

    The referendum was given, the voted decided. We voted to leave. Those who supported remain, vastly underestimate the enormous kick back and anger they will feel if the UK is prevented for exiting the EU. I will state again that Farage was correct (he was not inciting violence, just stating observations) that there would be mass civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots if it were seen that mp’s were trying to prevent the will of the people to leave the EU.

  • Peter Hayes 16th Nov '16 - 8:59pm

    Where I live we had a LibDem MP until the last election. It will be interesting if our Conservative MP will vote with his own views and his electorate and vote remain and what the consequences of a party line for leave will be.

  • Jonathan Hawley 16th Nov '16 - 9:42pm

    I believe Theresa May herself is clearly demonstrating that an MP is required to vote with her or his conscience and is a representative not a delegate of her/his constituents.

    Should there be a vote in Parliament, she makes no secret of her intention to vote to Trigger Article 50; this in spite of the fact that her constituents voted clearly to remain in the EU (54% of a 79% turnout). She is presumably doing this because her conscience tells her that her constituents’ opinion is wrong. She is to be respected for this but she also must face the consequences with her constituents at the next election should they consider that she has represented them inappropriately.

    Similarly, every other MP is required to vote with her or his conscience in a matter of such huge consequence and be prepared to disagree with the advice of their constituents if necessary.

    If I were an MP representing the best interests of my constituents, I would never vote in favour of something which I believed to be profoundly wrong: if it ended my career as an MP at a following election I would accept this as the price for doing my duty.

    Voting with conscience and integrity is the most important thing that is required from a Member of Parliament.

  • @Martin
    “Supposing the electorate voted to end nuclear and fossil fuel power stations, would Mark Wright and the next anonymous chap be saying that is the end of the matter”

    Why do we keep hearing silly arguments like this? We have even head examples about Capital Punishment.

    Parliament decided to put the decision out to plebiscite, They decided to hand over representative democracy in this instance to direct democracy. The public was asked to decide and decide they did.
    Parliament would never put it out to plebiscite whether or not to bring back capital punishment or to end nuclear power, so to use these as examples and arguments is quite frankly ridiculous.

    Parliament voted overwhelmingly 6-1 to put the decision on whether we should remain a member of the EU or not, out to plebiscite, They handed the electorate, direct democracy. Liberal Democrat MP’s all voted in favour of giving the decision back to the people.

    Article 50 will be enacted with or without libdem support.
    Libdems are merely engaging in political posturing on this one, something that will not wear well with the electorate next time the public go to the ballot box.
    Instead of Liberal Democrat Mp’s being able to fit in the back of a taxi, they will all be able to fit on the back seat of a bike, if they keep this up.

  • Simon McGrath 16th Nov '16 - 10:26pm

    So this would give two messages:
    1) All you people who feel that the elite ignores what you say: you are right
    2) if you want to leave the EU you have to vote UKIP.
    Not a single campaigner said during the referendum that Parliament would not implement the result. If we had won and there was a majority in Parliament that thought leaving was best for the country would we accept that as a valid argument.
    If we are not to leave it can only be done by democratic means: a vote on the terms or a GE fought and won by a pro Remain party.

  • Richard Elliott 16th Nov '16 - 10:27pm

    In answer to Cllr Mark Wright, this view sees one decision to be forever binding regardless that circumstances can change and regardless of the fact that the two binary positions (remain/leave) asked clearly hide an unknown range of views ie those leavers who favour immigration control as primary and those who don’t who would switch views if the economic damage is bad enough. I understand the point re trust which is why the government are right to pursue the leave option in good faith, but we don’t yet know what we are being offered. At this point it is surely right to review, democratically, how to proceed. I hope that the government can get a reasonable deal but there is a significant risk that they cannot – if that is the case some leave voters may wish to change their mind. It cannot be democratic to fix a decision in such circumstances and not allow a further ballot. If you consult your family and decide to put an offer on a house, you intend to buy, but if the survey finds unexpected problems you can consult again and withdraw. Parliaments and peoples change positions after a period of time and reviewing new evidence – the seriousness of this decision and its longevity requires this. Parliament would be right to press for this as a condition of starting Art 50

  • ethicsgradient 16th Nov '16 - 11:01pm

    @Richard Elliott

    Again here is the idea that effectively 23rd of June was just an opinion poll. We all knew the consequences when we voted. we voted to leave. Those who keep saying “well you an’t just stick by one vote, things change etc, we don’t just have 1 general election”… this theme of arguement… well lets compare to a general election…

    You vote in the general election resulting in a government you want or don’t what. You then have to wait 5 years to then choose again (previously 4-5years as precedent). What doesn’t happen is for 3 months later say…. “oh well I didn’t like the result of the election and I think people have changed their mind…. lets have another election!”…

    To be honest as a leaver, if remainers want a second referendum, I would love it. Because it would be an absolute landside for leave! I’d put £100 on it. why?…..

    1) The unprecedented anger of the public having their decision over turned and being told to vote again. It would confirm and justify all those accusations that the political elite don’t listen and Europe just ignored referendums until they get the right result. The backlash would be unimaginable!

    2) The economic scare stories have proved not to be borne out. we are 4 months on and the economy has not collapsed as remain predicted (nonsense argument to say “ah brexit hasn’t happened”, these were for what t happen after a vote leave…. Many remainers did not like the EU but were worried about the economy… That is a busted flush.

    Bring on a 2nd referendum if you wish. It would be 56-58% leave… Even as high as 60%-40% leave. Do not underestimate the quiet majority for leave.

  • Can Parliament vote against Brexit. Yes, they can.

    Will Parliament vote against Brexit. No, they will not.

    For every David Lammy there are 50 sane MPs who understand that actions have consequences.

  • @Martin

    “over the next ten years, is the implication that somehow the referendum absolves all parliamentarians and the government are absolved from all responsibility of the consequences of Brexit.”
    I am not saying that the Liberal Democrats and likeminded people, should not campaign for type of policies and legislation that they would like to see the UK retain after leaving the EU.
    I also think it is perfectly proper for any political party to Campaign to get us to REJOIN the EU AFTER we have left, if they believe it has not worked out and it would be in our interests to do so.
    What I do not think is acceptability however, is what we are seeing at the moment, Parliamentary party and members of the house of lords looking for ways to block brexit altogether if they get their way. That would be a betrayal of parliament to the Voting Public.

    I do believe post Brexit Britain will lead to prosperity. I believe there is a whole wide world out there to trade with and Britain will prosper. I also believe Britain will be able to strike a bespoke trade deal with the EU that will allow us “access” to the single market, not in the “single market” there is a difference

    “However, were this even a remote eventuality, I would have expected something that looked like solid evidence. The indicators (e.g. decline in investment plans, inflation, skills shortages) point the other way, towards further and deeper economic hardship.”
    Oh please come on, stop the scare nonsense. It has already been proven wrong time and time again. All the scare mongering has proved to be false. We had lower than predicted inflation figures again today and the highest employment levels on records, All current data shows there has been no mass negative effects from brexit, as remainers warned would happen the day after we voted leave. It’s just not happening.

  • “it would appear, based on your logic, that those to blame and hold to account, would be the voters themselves. But, how would that work, and what good would it do?”

    If it was not a success it would be down to politicians and grassroots members who are doing all that they can to sabotage the bexit plans and will probably end up us getting the worst possible deal as Theresa May and the negotiation team will look weak.

    You can hardly claim that so Far, Liberal Democrats, SNP and some Labour have behaved in a constructive manor when it comes to these brexit negotiations. it has been all out war into trying to derail it completely, that’s ultimately peoples hopes

  • Martin Clarke 17th Nov '16 - 12:28am

    Of course they can. Just will result in Tory/UKIP dominated House of Commons after the next election.

  • David Pearce 17th Nov '16 - 8:23am

    The problem here is that leave are overclaiming their win. The nation did not vote conclusively for leave, and on a different day could have voted the opposite. In ordinary election we accept the result because 1) the difficulties in having repeated re-runs, 2)the fact that there will be a re-run in a few years anyway, 3)the result will have no major or irreversible consequences. Usually a change of administration brings only a minor change in policy.

    There is every possibility that by the time the Brexit negotiations have been concluded, the nation will have changed its mind and prefer to stay. The real lie here is being propagated by Leave, that an irreversible decision has been made. Patently it has not. The only acceptible course for parliamentarians is to continue exploring the options for leave, but to keep open the alternative to remain.

    This is granted exceedingly difficult, but from a democratic perspective it must be done.

    From a party perspective, the conservatives have opted to follow their own voters, who show a majority to leave. This is the least bad course for a party, to go with its supporters. However, labour and even more so liberals have majority support to remain, and this is exactly what they should seek as an outcome. Putting their politcal weight behind the government will win them no friends, because credit for a successful Brexit will go to the government and once again they will have opposed the majority of their voters. However, if it goes badly all will equally get the blame. The only scenario where they can benefit is by opposing Brexit now, and they will then gain a wave of support if it goes badly.

    The conservatives have not opted to accept the result, but made a choice about party interest and their own voters interest. Libs should do the same. In the lib case, 50% of people are remain, which is way more than their 10% national support, especially if labour too are planning to alienate their own remain voters.

  • Ethicsgradient: your comments, once again, reflect my thoughts and feelings about Brexit. Thank you!

  • If we are worried about people “British voters trusting politicians again” (Cllr Mark Right) how do they they trust elected politicians who are cowed by the blatant lies propagated by other elected politicians during a one-off referendum?

  • ethicsgradient
    “Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its borders. There is therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our own produce.”
    Well today the Celestial Empire is the workshop of the world. What do the barbarians of today hope to trade with it? And don’t say cake.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Nov '16 - 9:23am

    As things stand a Tory dominated House of Commons is most likely after the next election, almost entirely because of Labour’s unelectability. I expect UKIP would pick up a few seats here and there in staunchly Leave voting areas, but the party has practically no appeal outside its core Hard Brexiteer supporters. But the Lib Dems will also regain some lost ground mainly on the back of its anti-Brexit stance. It would be electoral folly for the Lib Dems to “accept” Brexit. It would alienate the 50% Remain constituency, and it would not gain us any votes from Leave supporters, who would prefer to vote for a true believer than a wannabe.

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Nov '16 - 9:34am

    @ Geoff Reid,
    My concern is how do we trust politicians who seem not to understand the constitution or are prepared to ignore it. It seems the latter because we have evidence from 2010 that the Government, whose leader has now disappeared, knew that the referendum was advisory, but failed to forewarn the electorate of this. I am not surprised by the anger that this has generated.

    Some the most sensible commentary seems to be coming from the former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

    I wish that I could believe that politicians would vote according to their conscience, but on past experience, I suspect that even those who feel that leaving the EU will lead to considerable national self- harm, won’t do so.

  • @Simon McGrath – “If we had won and there was a majority in Parliament that thought leaving was best for the country would we accept that as a valid argument.”

    Yes. The decision rests with Parliament and a Remain result would not have bound it anymore than a Leave result does.

    And, you can be absolutely certain that, had they a majority in Parliament, pro-Leave MPs wouldn’t hesitate to trump “Parliamentary sovereignty” over “the will of the people” (were it a pro- Remain referendum result).

  • It’s good to see that Lib Dem Remainers have embraced the post-truth world so enthusiastically.

    Luckily we only have to wait a few months to see whose post-truth world vision is correct.

  • @Cllr Mark Wright – “if parliament *ever* wants the British voters to trust politicians again, it world be utterly insane to do that.”

    Voters need to be able to trust politicians to do what they – the politicians – believe is right, NOT what is popular in an either/or situation.

    Were you, as a Councillor to discover that your Council is facing financial Armageddon, voters ultimately have to be able to trust that Councillors will do whatever it takes to avoid that. Refusing to make deeply unpopular decisions – such as raising taxes and slashing services – will not benefit the voters. That’s the “easy path” that politicians in Greece took during the economic “good times” and the voters of Greece have reaped a bitter harvest as a result of the politicians failure to “do the right thing” as they opted for the “popular choices”.

  • Ethicsgradient 17th Nov '16 - 12:54pm


    You seem to completely misunderstand my viewpoint. I am a libertarian freetrader. I want to trade with the whole world. My main issue with the EU is one of sovereignty, accountability and representation.

    I would love to have a EU free trade area just a with all the machinary of burocracy and aspirations of nationhood removed. A slick dynamic free trade area with a simple and transparent market regulator over the top would be perfect.

    The problem was always to try to use economics as a back door to a policitcal project (at least for the UK it was, made sense for the continent to desire this)

  • Ethicsgradient 17th Nov '16 - 1:06pm


    With regards to China. There is a massive market for our services over there. Particularly law and financial services. Also as you say it is the workshop of the world, but as dyson shows the r&d areas are more suited in high education, highly developed economies. This leads to an increase in high value jobs.

    With regards to the EU and brexit, without having to satisfy the whims of 28others nations, it should be much easier to do business with China

  • “Yes, after directly asking the voters a question (and remember, both houses passed the EU Referendum Act), Parliament could then simply ignore the answer the voters gave because it wasn’t the right answer. But if parliament *ever* wants the British voters to trust politicians again, it world be utterly insane to do that.” Cllr Mark Wright 16th Nov ’16 – 8:07pm

    Parliament will not be ignoring anything! It is the Executive who want to ignore Parliament and invoke Art.50 and then present Parliament (and the British public) with a fait accompli done deal that it has negotiated with no democratic scrutiny. A bit like how previous Executive’s behaved over the Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon treaties and so got us into the current predicament…

    Assuming either the Supreme Court upholds our Constitution or Parliament immediately enacts statute law to overrule the Court if it doesn’t; the Executive will have to present their case to Parliament and gain Parliament’s assent to the course of action they intend to take to deliver on the referendum result. Thus Parliament will be voting on the Executive’s approach to Brexit and not on Brexit itself. Hence it can vote against the Executive invoking Art.50 whilst respecting the referendum vote; it will be up to the Executive to decide whether it returns to Parliament with an alternative approach to Brexit or drop the matter and ignore the referendum vote…

  • Arnold Kiel 17th Nov '16 - 6:21pm

    Yes it can, and it should. Irrespective of MPs current voting inclination on Article 50, most of them will have concluded by now that this referendum should never have happened. I would therefore view a vote against triggering Article 50 not so much as ignoring voters’ preference or reversing their decision but rather as a retroactive cancellation of the referendum.

    I believe this to be justifiable for one fundamental reason: giving every adult one vote is not aligned with individual stakes in this highly consequential and almost irreversible decision: while 52% of participants wanted to leave (I will not go into the discussion about what that means here) at one point in time, those 52% of participants represented a lot less than 50% in terms of remaining active years before retirement, creative ideas, entrepreneurial spirit, exposure to future economic circumstances, wealth creation etc. etc. If looking at averages: the past outvoted the future, old money in the bank outvoted money still to be made, homeowners outvoted renters, pensioners outvoted students…

    It would be interesting to see the correlation between MPs’ personal wealth and their EU-position.

    It is for this fundamental reason that I believe such a decision needs to go through a weighing-machine (i.e. Parliament), not a counting-machine (referendum).

  • Alex Macfie 17th Nov '16 - 6:37pm

    William Ross : Your analogy with the US Electoral College is poor: it’s apples & oranges. Electoral College delegates are formally pledged to vote for a candidate. They do not campaign as individuals in the general election; their names may not even appear on the ballot paper (or screen). Most voters do not know, or care, who the potential delegates are. These really are, to all intents and purposes, faceless ciphers. In some states, so-called faithless electors can face criminal penalties. The Electoral College meets for one purpose, and one purpose only, to elect the POTUS. No discussion, no debate, no committees, just one single motion to vote on.

    A Parliament is not an electoral college. Members campaign and are elected as individuals. And this is not true just under FPTP, AV or STV; even in a party list system, parties promote list candidates, and voters are likely to have some idea of who some of them (certainly he ones near the top of the lists) are. Candidates are not formally “pledged” to vote for anything (notwithstanding a certain ill-advised unofficial “pledge” that most of our candidates signed in the 2010 election campaign). Parliament is sovereign, that is the whole point of it. There can be no legal sanctions against “faithless” MPs; they can only face their party Whips, and even then the only sanction the whips have is to withdraw the whip from an errant MP. And MPs do much more than just vote.

  • David Pearce 18th Nov '16 - 1:12am

    I find it odd why China would wish to hire English lawyers. I am sceptical why they want to import western financial methods, when their economy is breaking all the western rules. The Chinese have no intention whatever of playing by our rules, because if they do, they lose.

    And if we play by Chinese rules, we lose. All those complex EU rules which you dislike, which you feel simply complicate trade, are there to ensure fairness. China will not permit them, of course, because while once unrestricted trade favoured the British empire, now it favours China. China massively grown its economy by dumping subsidised goods into western markets. They do not need us to help them do this, except to keep on buying their goods until we have not a factory left.

    And that is why the world economic model which has been in place for some time is just about to break down. Just as we plan to embrace it utterly?

    Dyson’s plan was to bring more foreign nationals to the Uk to work in his research department. I saw reports of him railing at UK universities saying they were simply not producing enough engineers. Consider the proposition: why go to the trouble of bringing engineers to a country to staff a research department when they could all just have stayed at home? Or gone to China, to work on nuclear power station design which the Chinese intend to sell to Britain. Could you really make it up, that we have a plan to live from selling hi tech to the Chinese, just as we are buying nucler technology from them?

  • Alex Macfie 18th Nov '16 - 9:27am

    And another thing William Ross; Parliament is not the Government. The government has absolutely no power to compel MPs to vote a certain way. That is the road to dictatorship.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Nov '16 - 9:45am

    Arnold Kiel, in your comment yesterday at 6.21pm, you seem to suggest that some people’s votes are, or should be, worth more than others. I find this attitude quite disturbing – it is contrary to the most fundamental principles of democracy

  • John Littler 18th Nov '16 - 3:15pm

    A new Yougov poll puts The LibDems on 22%, ahead of Labour on 19%, based on a clear LibDem position for a second vote on the EU, with Labour largely going along with May’s position.

    However, May would still win in this world. I suggest joint REFORM candidates in winnable seats.

    Both of these positions look likely after McDonell’s position this week:

    Only 18% think the government is doing well at negotiating Brexit

    A majority of people still think that Britain should go ahead with Brexit

    A limited trade-only deal with the EU is most likely to command public support

    Conservatives would win an early election with an increased margin, but 2nd referendum pledge would boost the Liberal Democrats

    Follow @YouGov on twitter and stay up to date with the latest news and results

    Our latest update on what the public think about Brexit shows that a majority think the government are doing badly at negotiating British exit from the European Union. More than half (52%) think the government are doing badly, just 18% think they are doing well. Both Leave and Remain voters give the thumbs down. 59% of people do, however, still think that Britain will have left the European Union by 2020.

    Still no Bregrets…

    68% of people think that Britain should go ahead with Brexit, unchanged from when we asked the same question in October. People who voted to Remain in June are evenly divided between those who opposed Brexit, but think the government has a duty to implement the decision and leave, and those who would like to see the government ignore or overturn the referendum result.

  • John Littler 18th Nov '16 - 3:16pm

    What sort of Brexit?

    Asked to rank various considerations and aims in Britain’s exit negotiations, the need to respect the referendum result comes top. 45% of respondents put it as their number one consideration (including two-thirds of Leave voters and a quarter of Remain voters).

    Asked what outcome they would most like to see, remaining in the EU is picked by 31% of people, a “hard Brexit” falling back onto WTO rules is picked by 26%, a Canada style deal by 26%, and EFTA membership by 17%. Continuing EU membership is the first choice of most of those who voted Remain in June, followed by EFTA membership. People who voted to Leave are fairly evenly split between falling back onto WTO rules or a Canadian type deal.

    Asking more specifically about each types of Brexit, the solution that looks likely to command the widest public confidence is a “Canadian style” trade deal. Half of respondents think this would be good for Britain and say they would be happy with the outcome (compared to just over a third for all the other options) and two-thirds of respondents think such an outcome would respect the result if the referendum.

    The Article 50 Court Challenge

    By a narrow margin people think it is legitimate for the Courts to rule on whether or not the government has the power to invoke Article 50. 43% think it is legitimate for the Courts to rule on the issue, 39% think they are involving themselves in political matters they should leave alone.

    However, while they think it is legitimate for the judges to rule on the case, the public don’t agree with the outcome. By 47% to 36% respondents thought that the government should have the right to invoke Article 50 itself, without getting the permission of Parliament.

    Opinion was strongly correlated to people’s attitudes to Brexit. A large majority of Remain voters thought that it was legitimate for the Courts to intervene and that Parliament should decide. A larger majority of Leave voters thought that the Courts were wrong to make a ruling and that the government should be able to make the decision alone.

  • John Littler 18th Nov '16 - 3:17pm

    3. What should Remainers do?

    59% of respondents think that calls for a second referendum are illegitimate. Individual MPs voting against Brexit is also rejected. Opponents of Brexit voting only in favour of a “soft Brexit” is seen as a more acceptable approach – 41% of people see it as legitimate, and campaigning for as soft a Brexit as possible is seen as the preferred option by most Remain voters (a majority of Leave voters think politicians opposed to leaving should not voice their concerns at all).

    What if there is an early election?

    While only 26% of the public think a call for a second referendum would be illegitimate, that does not mean it is not a plausible electoral policy for smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats who are seeking to increase their support, rather than win an overall majority.

    We asked respondents to imagine how they would vote if Parliament would not vote in favour of Brexit and there was instead an early election. We presented people with three possible scenarios – one where Labour backed Brexit and the Lib Dems a second referendum; one where Labour backed on a soft Brexit and the Lib Dems a second referendum; one where both Labour and the Lib Dems backed a second referendum.

  • John Littler 18th Nov '16 - 3:17pm

    In every case the Conservative party would win easily, with a much increased margin and probably with a substantially increased majority. However, in cases where the Liberal Democrats are the only party offering a second referendum they would do very well – increasing their support to 19% or 22%. Hypothetical voting intention questions like this are indicative at the very best – they should be taken with a pinch of salt, and probably vastly over-emphasise the importance of EU policy on people’s votes. Nevertheless, they do suggest that in any early election focused on Brexit there is a substantial upside for the Liberal Democrats.

    Asked about when the next election should be, a quarter of people would like an immediate election before Article 50 is invoked, 16% would like an election between Article 50 and Britain finally leaving, 40% don’t want an election until after Britain has left.

    Photo: PA

    Explore the data using Crunchbox

    Click the chart’s green title bar to choose which issue you want to explore. Click the blue “By” button on the right of the chart title to choose which data you would like to compare this against. For instance, the below chart shows how well people think the government is handling Brexit, compared against how they voted at the EU referendum.

  • John Peters 18th Nov '16 - 3:31pm

    @John Littler

    A snippet in the context of a review is fine. You may have gone too far.

  • ethicsgradient 18th Nov '16 - 3:38pm

    @John Littler

    Thank you so much for clear data. I Find it chimes with what I have found/felt/perceived
    No bregret effect.
    2/3rds accepting outcome of referendum and wanting the government to proceed with brexit
    No large support to prevent triggering article 50
    support that Parliament should be consulted with A50.
    Little support for a 2nd referendum
    significant grouping/large majority looking to support a pro-EU stance from a political party. Majority for leave though = increase lib dem support, large Tory majority, Labour decline (not clear position, supporter/mp split on EU, Corbyn effect)

    Call for a 2nd referendum/ large increase in Remain support are just echo chamber effects. Opportunity for lib dems to capitalist on remain unhappiness though.

  • Paul D. B. Williams 18th Nov '16 - 3:44pm

    I think that John Littler’s analysis of poll data is really useful. Of course, we can all take our own interpretation of the data, but this seems to be an inciteful summary. I would prefer this material to be posted as an article with links, rather than as a series of comments. Is this possible to arrange, as otherwise people will miss it?

  • William Ross 18th Nov '16 - 5:15pm


    You are quire right that Electoral College members are ” faceless ciphers”. American electors voted Trump or Clinton knowing that if they won a state majority then all the college votes would go for their candidate. ( OK there are a couple states like Nebraska which are different). Technically, it could be different because in many states the electors can disobey the electorate…….. So what?

    Similiarly, the voters of this country went to the polls on 23 June at the behest of Parliament knowing that their decision was final and sovereign. Remember Paddy Ashdown`s words before the count was complete. Parliament can off course do anything, such as making smoking legal in the Paris underground.

    It will do you no good. Arnold may know what`s in our best interests but the People will have their say.

    But where does all that get you? Nowhere.

  • ethicsgradient 18th Nov '16 - 5:33pm

    @Arnold Kiel

    the core of your argument is that too many old people voted to leave. So old people should not be allowed to vote and younger voters should have more voting weight. I would like to point out this is both illiberal and undemocratic.

    I would like to point out that if you were 18-21 in 1975 (and probably voted to remain) you would be 59-62 now. so those would have spend their adult lives living in the EEC/EC/EU voted to leave. That in itself poses an interesting debate.

    What you miss is that as people grow older (and wiser?) they seem to become more conservative (and more anit-EU in the context of the European question) your implied hope (as has been suggested before on this website) is if Article 50 can be delayed enough, then enough old people (perceived leave voters) would die, enough new young people would turn 18 and hopefully vote remain and this would tip the balance and change the result.

    What you forget is some middle age remainers will swap to leave and so on. The whole thing will remain at the status-quo.(and that not including backlash at being made to vote again, economic warnings not coming true and the rest)

    It is scary that you posted so a non-liberal non-democratic point because the referendum result did not reflect your own view.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Nov '16 - 8:12pm

    William Ross: Again you are comparing apples and oranges. Whatever any politician may have said before the referendum, there is NOTHING in the statute, as passed by Parliament that implied any obligation to implement the result of the referendum (just as well, since there was no plan for “Leave” as we are finding out). If it had been a mandatory referendum, then this discussion would be moot, as the government would have had to trigger Article 50 as soon as practically possible after June 24, and would not have needed reference to Parliament. And this would have been spelled out in the legislation. Of course there should also have been a concrete “Leave” plan at the outset.

    “Parliament can off course do anything, such as making smoking legal in the Paris underground. “

    Well the French Parliament presumably can. Our Parliament has no jurisdiction over the Métro.

  • Arnold Kiel 18th Nov '16 - 9:34pm

    Dear Catherine, dear ethicsgradient, of course every vote must have equal weight. I therefore believe that the EU-membership question is unfit for a referendum, but should reside with politicians who represent diverse groups of constituents, reflect the national interest, and have the knowledge, time, and information access to adequately evaluate a decision of this magnitude and complexity. Furthermore, a parliamentary debate is a higher-quality exchange of arguments than the referendum campaign.

  • @Arnold Kiel
    “a parliamentary debate is a higher-quality exchange of arguments than the referendum campaign.”

    Well you must watch a different parliament to the one that I see on TV.
    PMQ’s is a pantomime of jeering and sneering and a master class on how to not answer a question.
    Parliamentary debates normally consist of which side can trade the most insults and lies and get away with it without being in contempt of the house.
    And as for the budget. To watch 600 odd MP’s jeering, sneering and waving pieces of paper about at each other and behaving in the most undignified manor.
    If all that is your idea of high-quality political exchanges…..

  • “By 47% to 36% respondents thought that the government should have the right to invoke Article 50 itself, without getting the permission of Parliament.” John Littler

    This is very telling, as effectively 47% of respondents don’t want a democracy and would be happy with a dictatorship; probably because that wouldn’t involve those nasty foreigners/Europeans.

    Additionally, it tells us that these people don’t appreciate that the natural consequence of their desire is for their complaints that resulted in the referendum are actually null and void, as a previous ‘dictatorship’ used its ‘rights’ to take us into the EU…

    So once again we see that there is no pleasing spoilt children…

  • @ethicsgradient:

    “as people grow older (and wiser?) they seem to become more conservative”

    Up to a point. If all young people, as they grew older, adopted the attitudes of their parents and grandparents, then we would still be executing gays and allowing marital rape; women would still not be allowed to work; we’d still have feudal laws; overt racism would be acceptable; we’d be sending people to prison for going to the wrong church etc etc. So it’s clearly not the case that older people becoming more conservative means that the status quo is preserved; this would not explain all the social progress that has happened over the years, such that the things I mentioned don’t happen any more in this country. Often social progress has the opposite effect, turning people who previously supported a conservative position towards a more progressive position; when Clause 28 was introduced a majority supported it; the same was true when Labour abolished it; now a majority opposes its reintroduction. A similar thing has happened with gay marriage. And the proportion of people supporting reintroducing capital punishment is on a continual downward trend.
    Also in the time of the 1975 referendum, being pro-EEC was not necessarily the “progressive” viewpoint. The Conservatives were more pro-Europe than were Labour; this was true both of voters and politicians. The hard left were strongly anti-EU; Corbyn is one of those hard left-wingers who has never changed his outlook; before being elected Labour leader he was strongly anti-EEC/EC/EU in the 1980s and Labour’s current position is reflective of his and McDonnell’s crypto-Euroscepticism.

  • @Roland

    On the 22nd February 2016 the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons “If the British people vote to leave, there is only one way to bring that about, namely to trigger article 50 of the treaties and begin the process of exit, and the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away.”

    I think that it is unreasonable to characterize the “By 47% to 36% respondents thought that the government should have the right to invoke Article 50 itself, without getting the permission of Parliament.” as spoilt children.

    In fact I think there is a case for first cast out the beam out of thine own eye given the contempt for Democracy shown by some Remainers in these comments.

  • @ethicsgradient: Also you must consider the basic reason why young people (especially professionals) are predominantly Remainers, which actually turns the maxim on which your argument is based (“If you’re not a radical at 20 you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no head.”) upside down. Young Remainers are mostly not hot-headed idealists with some unrealisable dream of a united Europe; rather, they see this as what they already have and something that is being taken away from them. They voted Remain because they see the UK being in the EU as economically beneficial to them, giving them more opportunities. They are not “smash the system” student radicals. And they are not likely to change their minds about this, except in the unlikely event of Brexit being an economic success!
    Older Leave voters, by contrast, tend to be influenced by nostalgia for a Britain that never really was. Those who came of age before the UK joined the EEC my well have this nostalgia, even if they voted “Remain” in 1975. Those born when the UK was in the EU will not have this nostalgia, because they never experienced the UK as their elders did, making another reason why they are not likely to change their minds about wanting the UK to be part of the EU. The older generations were voting with their “hearts” for Leave; the younger generation were voting with their “heads” for Remain.

  • I wish people would stop telling us why we voted the way we did, with little to no proof

    Millions of peoples, voted in this Referendum, far more than has ever voted in any other political process in our entire history.
    To look at a few shoddy polls since of a few hundred people, after the vote and to then some how think this has given some kind of divine insight into the way the electorate voted is poppycock.

    I am 41 years old, So clearly never got to have a say in the EEC 1975
    It was our parents and Grandparents who made those choices for us, that has effected our lives for the last 40 years.
    At that time of course it was only the common market, but over time it turned into EEC, then the EU it became more and more about politics and creating a superstate.
    I never got say in this.
    My Parents and grandparents never got a say in this. It certainly was not what they voted for in 1975, when they thought they were just voting to stay in the common market.
    I have not liked how the EU has expanded its paws all over us over the last 15 years especially. The Euro has been a disaster, which has knock on effects for our country even though we are not part of the currency union.
    I despise the undemocratic nature of the EU Commission and Council.
    I despise the common fishery policies that has decimated fish stocks, sees hundreds of millions of fish end of on land fill sites and of course it has decimated our fishing villages.
    Yes I despise everything about the EU.
    I was glad when I finally got my vote and was able to vote to leave. I believe that the UK will be great outside the EU.
    The EU is a busted flush, it is useless at making trade deals with the rest of the world and there is a whole wide world out there ready for us to trade with.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Nov '16 - 1:27am


    As a member of the Liberal political strand that is as strong for the Democratic too, your views interest me . Are you a member ? Whether yea or nay , you frequently contribute at a time the party seems to be proving what I have long felt , it is too keen on institutions , with not nearly enough interest or sometimes in the past , less so now , talent to fully reform them and radically improve them. NHS , BBC , EU !

    I am a EUpragmatist, not a phile or phobe ! I can see the merits in Tim and co and their stance , but do not feel it emotionally or in any way that it would have been my stance as leader. Mind you, most of my policies would be such an intersting mixture of centre left , centre , and a nod centre right , I think the appeal would be wide!

    How do you square your views with this site ? We need more such diversions of a staunch and different sort !

  • @ matt

    I wasn’t old enough to vote in the referendum in 1975, but I paid attention to the debate and if I had had a vote I would have voted to stay in the EC. It was clearly about trade and the single market is clearly about trade. The European Parliament, the Commission and the Council all existed in 1975. I remember that the Liberals had a couple of members of the European Parliament then, but when direct elections were introduced in 1979 no Liberals were elected in the UK.

    It can be argued that the EU Council is elected a bit like the USA’s Senate but only one person per country not two per state. Each country holds elections and a government is formed and it is this elected government which sends a representative to the Council. Therefore it can be argued that the EU council is democratic in an indirect way.

    I am not a fan of the Commission which is supposed to be the Executive of the EU. It could be replaced with an Executive from the Parliament like in the UK. It could be replaced with an elected President who appoints the Executive like in the USA.

    I think members of the EU Parliament should be able to propose things in the Parliament, as I suppose Senators and Members of Congress can do in the USA.

    I opposed the Liberal Democrat policy to support a European currency and I think the Euro is a problem, but there are no easy fixes from here.

    The Common Agricultural Policy should be reformed and I agree that something needs to be done about the fish that are netted but are left to die and not dealt with by the Fisheries Policy.

    I remember how badly we competed with the world before we joined the EC and I have not seen anything to convince me we will be any better at competing with the new power houses of international trade than we were with those around 43 years ago.

    Are there any directives or regulations passed since 1992 that affect you that you dislike and would like repealed?

  • ethicsgradient 19th Nov '16 - 4:33am

    @Alex Macfie

    Addressing your first post; I think you make a very valid point and one I agree with. On societal issues, UK culture has certainly become much more liberal in all the ways you point out. Its a very good post.

    I think I was drawing on the maxim as you say of ” radical left at 20 moving to conservative and right in their 40’s” as a possible rational to why people who would have voted in a majority to remain in 1975 have moved to a majority voting to leave in 2015. I was speculating on reasons.

    To reiterate though, I wholeheartedly agree with your first post to me and thing it is a very good point.

    With your second post, I would disagree with certainly the second half and also how I perceive 20’somethings remainers. I see where you are coming from though.

    I don’t see 20-30yr olds are radicals at all. I do agree that many voted for perceived economic benefits and a view to internationalism
    (Interestingly it is on both these points that I see things differently and yet still to the same end of economic benefit and internationalism…. I think that we we be economically better off in a longer term if we are free traders outside of the EU. I also think that the EU is inwards looking and euro-centric rather than being truly international and global as I want the UK to be. however I am moving off the point we were discussing and moving on to my own personal reasons for voting to leave)

    I do disagree with the idea the older voters voted leave because of nostalgia. I don’t buy it. Partly because if you were 18-21, you’d be 59-62 now. It seems to me (I’m speculating here) that the majority older leave vote comes from disenchantment of living in the EEC/EC/EU for 40 years and coming to the conclusion that this was not what they had envisioned when they had vote to remain in 1975. Fundamentally that they voted for a common trade area not a fully fledged trans-national political union.

    Overall you make some really good points, some I agree with other I disagree with.

    All the best


  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Nov '16 - 5:05am

    Ethics gradient, I think you’re right in much of what you say about the reasons why many people who voted to stay in the Common Market in 1975 when they were young, voted to leave the EU in 2016. It wasn’t necessarily that they had become more right wing with age.
    We should remember that it is not necessarily “right wing” to wish to leave the EU. In 1975, the Common Market certainly wasn’t seen as left wing. After all, it was a Conservative government, under Edward Heath, which had taken Britain into the Common Market. For many years it was mostly people on the left who opposed the Common Market, then the EEC – people like Tony Benn. Even in 2016, some people voted Leave for socialist reasons.
    I have often heard people say that in 1975 they voted for what they thought was just a trade agreement. They were told that it would never be more than a trade agreement. When the Common Market evolved into something much more than a trade agreement, they felt they had been mislead. Therefore, in 2016, they did not believe assurances that Britain would not be forced into “ever closer union” at some point in the future. They suspected they were being mislead again. This was why, this time, they voted Leave.

  • ethicsgradient 19th Nov '16 - 6:12am

    Part 1/2 (has to split it)

    @Catherine Jane Crosland


    I think it is very fair what you write. you give a very good reason (to go with others) as to why people and in particular older people voted. The notion of being lied to originally and not letting that happen again is a good one.

    (I’d not considered this one… being let down and the EU being very different to what the common market was voted for and supported, definitely, but an interesting twist to add… ” I’m not letting them again”..

    With the left/right thing too. I’d agree. I was using generalizations of radical/left/young to conservative/right/older. In Truth the left/right paradigm doesn’t really fit the EU/UK debate. As shown by Left switching from against to supporting, right supporting to against, and half of those having some other position. the EU/UK debate rather than being left/right is up/down even zig-zig-y. ….. I’m free wheeling again here ( but here goes)… (see 2/2)

  • ethicsgradient 19th Nov '16 - 6:15am

    Leave remain

    outlook more global (trade with the world) More global (trade through EU
    trading block

    Economics better off out because: better off because:
    1.Free trade without compromising 1. Tariff free trade with 500million
    with 27 other nations. trading area
    2.Euro systematic/incurable problem. 2. integrated supply chains
    3. sidelined in the EU as not part of 3. world finical clout acting as
    Eurozone one block
    4. cheaper raw material source as
    no EU protectionism/trade wall
    5. Return as fully global trader

    Both wanting free trade and reduced costs

    identity British/nationalist European/continental
    (not necessarily internationalist)

    Free movement: Controlled/oversight EU free movement

    Sovereignty Elected uk parliament Shared/pooled sovereignty

    accountability: Vote out mp’s indirect appointments
    (policy formation) (Commission and council)

    what is left? what is right? what is shared? what is mixed? I agree left/right does not fit the European question. My balance of choice was leave provided more opportunities and accountability in the future years. We all came to our own conclusions with this.

  • ethicsgradient 19th Nov '16 - 6:26am

    (rearranged to hopefully be clearer)


    Leave: more global (trade with the world)
    Remain:More global (trade through EU trading block)

    better off out because: b
    1.Free trade without compromising with 27 other nations.
    2.The Euro systematic/incurable problem.
    3. sidelined in the EU as not part of Eurozone
    4. cheaper raw material sources asno EU protectionism/trade wall
    5. Return as fully global trader WTO seat

    Better of in because:
    1. Tariff free trade with 500million trading area
    2. integrated supply chains – cheaper manufactoring
    3. world finical clout acting as one block

    Both wanting free trade and reduced costs


    European/continental (not necessarily internationalist)

    Free movement:

    EU free movement


    Elected uk parliament
    Shared/pooled sovereignty

    (policy formation)

    GE manifestio Vote out mp’s

    indirect appointments (Commission and council) unable to be removed directly.

    what is left? what is right? what is shared? what is mixed? I agree left/right does not fit the European question. My balance of choice was leave provided more opportunities and accountability in the future years. We all came to our own conclusions with this.

  • @Lorenzo Cherin
    “Are you a member ? Whether yea or nay , you frequently contribute at a time “
    Hi Lorenzo. No I am not a member of the Liberal Democrats. I have voted Liberal Democrats in some elections 2010 but not 2015. I am a floating voter between Labour and Liberal Democrats. My past being Labour as my 1st preference, though Labour will not get my vote for the foreseeable future whilst Corbyn and Mcdonell are heading the party and going in a direction that i cannot support.
    I do contribute on this site from time to time, when my illness allows me too, I do go long periods of time where I am unable to communicate with anyone in any format.
    How do you square your views with this site ?
    Well I can tell you what I believe in.
    I believe higher education should be free for everyone, no matter what age, or what stage in life you decide you want to go back into education. Everyone should have the opportunity to better themselves and have a better future. Through circumstances beyond their control some people may not have had the best opportunity to get their education right the first time round, be it through, illness, Family break downs, Childhood Trauma etc. There are hundreds of reasons why someone may have been disadvantaged early in life and now find themselves forever stuck in dead end remedial jobs with no chance of bettering themselves, going back into education / university is not a viable financial option for them. That needs to change.
    I believe in Rent Controls. Buy-to-let landlords have helped contribute towards the increases in property values, putting them out of reach for most first time buyers, increase in rents substantially that is subsidised by the tax payer through housing benefits {which the sick and unemployed get the blame for}
    I want us out of the EU. I believe wholeheartedly that a country should be entirely democratically accountable to its own people. The EU commission can never be democratically held to account. The EU commission works entirely in the opposite direction to our house of parliament and lords.
    I believe in renationalising the railways and the energy companies and power stations. There is something seriously wrong with us when we have foreign state owned companies providing our services and diverting the money back to their countries. Our nuclear power stations being designed and built by the Chinese and costing us billions in subsidies to EDF and the French government.

  • cont
    I believe medical assessments for sickness benefits should be handed back to GP’s and not contracted out to “health Care professionals” in the private sector. That is not to say that a patient should be assessed by their own GP, but by a different surgery, who would still have full access to a patient’s medical file/ history and are in a better position to make a fair and qualified assessment.
    I do not support the ever increasing of privatisation of the NHS and I do not support the Privatisation of our prison services, you only need to look to recent events to see how that is going.
    How I square my views with LD’s or even Labour these days, I do not know lol

  • @ Michael BG
    Are there any directives or regulations passed since 1992 that affect you that you dislike and would like repealed?
    To be totally honest with you Michael there is not any part of the EU that I like.
    I do not like the undemocratic nature of the EU commission.
    The Commission is made up of 28 unelected commissioners, who cannot be held to account.
    I don’t think it is right that it is the unelected Commission that gets to proposes laws. EU Parliament does vote and can make amendments on laws proposed by the Commission, but the Commission must accept any of the amendments proposed for the changes to become effective, showing where the power lies. Additionally, once something becomes an EU law, the Parliament has no ability to propose a change to this law. All the power is given to the unelected Commission.
    That is my primary reason for not liking the EU and I want out.
    I do not like the Common Agricultural policy,
    I do not like the common Fishery Policy for reasons I set out earlier.
    Simple economics and the EU’s ability to form meaningful Trade agreements: When Britain joined the Common Market in 1973, the EU (as it is now) produced 38% of the world’s goods and services – 38% of global GDP.
    In 1993, when the EU formally began, it produced just under 25%. Today the EU produces just 17%.
    The obvious explanation for this is the rise of the Asian economies, which have taken on a bigger share of global GDP. But why then has the US’s share not fallen by as much?
    The US’s share of global GDP stood at 30% in 1973, 27% in 1993, and stands at 22% today. That’s a 55% drop for the EU versus a 27% drop for the US.

    There are regulations that I would like to keep. Employment rights, Climate Change, to name just a couple, but we don’t need to be in the EU just for that.

  • John Peters 19th Nov '16 - 3:47pm

    For a while I wondered why some Remain Lib Dems were so positive for the EU.

    My mistake was to believe we have a common idea of what democracy means, I thought they liked the EU despite its anti-democratic nature. Once you realise they like the EU because of its anti-democratic nature it makes more sense. The EU can force laws on the UK population that the UK population would never vote for. That power is what they are desperate to retain.

  • @ matt

    I as pointed out in my previous post I don’t defend the EU Commission or lack of power of members of the EU Parliament to propose things. The EU Parliament has increased the accountability of the Commission and the President, I think they have the power to not confirm the appointment of them and from reading something on Wikipedia yesterday they have stopped some Commissioners taking up their posts. I think Conservatives have opposed the President being more accountable to either the Parliament or for it to be directly elected. Also I think it is possible for the Commission to propose directives or regulations after the Parliament has suggested it do so, but this is not a substitute for the members of Parliament having the power to propose themselves.

    I don’t know where you got your GDP figures, but Wikipedia has the USA and EU figurers much closer together – US $18,561,930 (24.7%) EU $17,110,523 (22.7%) IMF 2016 and EU $18,518,430 (23.7%) US $17,348,072 (22.2%) UN 2014 (

    @ John Peters

    The UK passes laws that the majority of Scotland’s MPs oppose and has done so in the past as well. Therefore the UK has forced on Scotland laws that is population never voted for. I remember the Poll Tax being introduced in Scotland a year before it was introduced in England and Wales and the Scottish people never voted for it.

    There are many forms of democracy and in lots of them a majority in a smaller geographical area has laws passed which they never voted for because of a majority in the larger area elected a government. If you live in a constituency with a Labour MP you could argue that most of the laws passed since 2010 were not voted for by the electors of your constituency.

    The democracy of the USA and the UK are different. The democracy of France and Germany are different.

  • Andrew Tampion 19th Nov '16 - 5:03pm

    Every Conservative MP in the current stood and was elected on a Manifesto that contained the following commitment:

    ” We will hold that in-out referendum before the end of 2017 and respect
    the outcome.” (page 72)

    Therefore no Conservative MP so elected has any moral authority to vote against initiating Article 50.

    Of course MPs of other Parties are not so constrained but the Conservatives do have an absolute majority.

    Furthermore should the House of Lords seek to vote down Brexit they would be voting against a Manifesto commitment of the lawfully elected Government.

    That would be a constitutional outrage. Any argument to the contrary is sophistry of the worst kind.

    It may be technically true that referenda are advisory only BUT to the best of my knowledge no UK Government has ever failed to honour the result of a referendum.

    Scott’s comparison of EU Referendum result with Burke and Paine is misleading because Burke was clearly referring to a long standing social contract not something that happened 4 months ago.

    A final question if there is a second referendum and the vote is still leave should we accept that result or is it to be best of 5?

  • @Michael BG
    “I don’t know where you got your GDP figures, but Wikipedia has the USA and EU figurers much closer together”

    I retract what i said on the GDP figures, I apologise for that, it was lazy on my part. I actually trusted what a very dear friend of mine (Even though he is a hardcore Tory) lol had written on his blogg. He is normally a stickler when it comes to facts and figures and i put full faith in that, instead of taking the time to check the facts for myself.
    On that part I put my hands up and say that I was wrong.
    However according to fact check The EU share of world output accounted for by the 28 current members of the EU has fallen from 30% to 16.5% from 1980 to 2016.

    It still does not change my overall view though on the EU. I want us to leave for all the reasons that I have said previously and more. But Democracy is my ultimate reason

  • @ matt

    The Full Fact figures do not seem to be ones produced by the UN. I don’t understand why their figures are so difference from mine. The UN figures are difficult to get, and for 1973 it rejected some countries only giving figures for 21 – $1,497,890 million; for the 28 the total is $18,518,429 million for 2014. If I add in Czechoslovakia and all of Yugoslavia the total is $1,542,434 for 1973.

    The world figure for 1973 is $5,234,577 million and for 2014 $78,037,087 million. The USA figures are $1,428,500 million (1973) and $17,348,071 million (2014). The percentages are:
    USA 27.3% (1973) and 22.2% (2014);
    EU (as above) 29.4% (1973) 23.8% (2014).
    There are also figures for “Europe” 1973 – $2,234,637 (42.6%) and 2014 – $21,896,875 (28%). [Figures from I think the EU might be declining more that the US because of the Euro and the lack of strong regional policies (which the USA has).

    The decline for the USA was 18.7%, for the EU (as above from 29.4 to 23.8%) was 19% and for the whole of Europe 34.3%. I am not sure this is strong evidence that the decline is because of EU policies as the decline for Europe as a whole is huge and it might be argued that the reason the decline for the EU is 15.3% less is because of the EU.

    Are you really saying that if the European Parliament elected the President and the President appointed the Commission and both were accountable to the European Parliament in the same way as UK governments and members of the European Parliament had the same limited rights to propose legislation as UK MPs your “ultimate” reason would not exist?

  • @Michael BG
    I dont know why the figues are so different, the full fact check article says that it uses resources from the IMF and are inclusive of 2016. it links to a data map but I aint figured out how to use that lol

    “Are you really saying that if the European Parliament elected the President……. your “ultimate” reason would not exist?”
    No I am no saying that at all.
    I am saying that my primary reason for not wanting to be in the EU is due to democracy, or lack of.
    Next comes uncontrolled immigration which I believe is driving down wages and putting huge strains on limited resources, housing, hospitals, schooling, infrastructure etc. Governments claim that migrants put in more than they take out, I don’t believe this to be true. The only way the government can lay to claim such a thing is because they do not increase the resources required to support the increase in number of people.
    I think we need a points based system that attracts people with the skills that we need. The point being though that they are granted a temporary visa to come to work here and during that time there is no entitlement to housing or welfare. After a 2 year period they are then able to apply for indefinite leave to remain and are able to apply for state benefits should they need them.
    I do not believe this will have a massive detrimental effect on factories and farms unable to find labour. I believe that people are more than prepared to do the jobs, after all we were a nation of factory workers before the EU.
    If there were shortages however, we would still be able to issue 12 month working holiday visa’s for people between the ages of 18-30, just like Australia does. Millions of Brits take advantage of this each year. it is a great way to travel, learn a new culture and earn at the same time. It puts money into the local economies. Point being again is that, these are temporary visas and do not entitle the holder to either state benefits or social housing.
    Finally, I believe that being outside the EU and able to strike up our own trade deals with the rest of the world, without all the tariffs that the EU forces upon us, consumer prices will come down, putting real money back in the pockets of families, which in turn gets spent back into local economies.
    There are so many reasons I want to leave, and not enough room to put them all, im afraid lol

  • @ matt

    Thank you for the list of some of your reasons, however it was the democracy one I was most interested in. It seems odd that you appear to be happy with the democracy the UK has, but if a Parliamentary system much like the UK’s was adopted for the EU you would still think democracy would be a problem. Would you really like the Council of ministers (i.e. a body which represents the governments of the Member States) replaced with something like the House of Lords (as well as my previous suggestions) to bring the democracy in the EU much more in line with that in the UK? Maybe I have totally misunderstood – do you even think that the UK system is democratic?

    I agree with you that an increased population means there are greater strains on resources such as housing, hospital, schools and infrastructure and I would add GPs. The economic argument in favour of migration I also find problematic (and maybe the freedom argument is a bit Social Darwinian). I accept that if a person is employed then when they spend their wages in the UK they add to demand in the UK. However if someone who was unemployed or on employment and support allowance was employed instead there should be nearly the same gain to the economy without creating much extra strain on the resources. I also think that having unemployment below 3% of the working age population would increase wages. As long as there is a large pool of people who require work there will be little pressure to increase wages.

  • @Michael BG

    “Thank you for the list of some of your reasons, however it was the democracy one I was most interested in”

    No I am not happy with our current system.
    I do not like the unelected house of lords and think it should be abolished.
    I am now conflicted in my views for Proportional Representation in the house of commons after what I see as the most disastrous effects of the coalition years and the total hash job made by the junior party, whose support allowed some of the most extreme right wing policies to find there way on to the statute book, instead of blocking them.
    “Would you really like the Council of ministers (i.e. a body which represents the governments of the Member States) replaced with something like the House of Lords ”
    Just to be clear are we talking about the European Council here or the council of ministers or the council of Europe?

    “Maybe I have totally misunderstood – do you even think that the UK system is democratic?
    Compared to the EU, I think the uk is more democratically accountable to the people. Does it have faults that needs reforms, yes it does.

    What I do not like, and what we will never change about the EU is that 28 commissioners are appointed by the head of states from each country.
    Each Prime Minister / President gets to appoint his / her own commissioner to the commission. That person is unelected and unaccountable to the public and yet holds one of the most powerful offices in the land.
    It is the unelected commission that gets to
    propose new laws, yes parliament can table amendments but ultimately it is the “unelected commission” who decides what amendments to accept
    Manages EU policies & allocates EU funding
    Enforces EU law
    Negotiates international agreements for the EU.

    All this power and not one of them is elected or accountable to the public. I will never agree with that and support an institution with so much centralised power.


    “The EU has been able to hide its relative decline by periodically absorbing new nations.
    If you take the EU as the pre eastern europe accession group of 18(?) the decline is more stark.”
    Thank you, I think that might actually be what my friend was referring to in his blog with those figures, maybe he was talking about the decline in the EU world share of output for the original group of 18 member states. I will check with him, like i said he is a stickler for facts and figures

  • Leekliberal 20th Nov '16 - 9:38am

    Reading this thread it seems to be dominated by not Lib Dem brexiteers! If we leave the EU with major damage to our economy it will be the pampered babyboomer generation of whom I am one who will have wrecked the future for our young people. It should be us who suffer the consequences with the sale scrapping of the unsustainable. triple lock pension scheme and curbs on our other perks like bus passes etc. It will be justifiable nemesis for us.

  • @Leekliberal

    Do you believe there will be major economic damage? We were told all sorts of lies during the Referendum about what would happen if we voted leave. They were just that, lies.

    What I see above is a lot of “I’m all right, Jacks” realising they may be one of the losers rather than one of the winners when we have exited the EU.

  • @John Peters ‘We were told all sorts of lies during the Referendum about what would happen if we voted leave. They were just that, lies.’
    Can I remind you that we haven’t left the EU yet! Just the prospect of it has hammered the pound with inevitable inflationary effects yet to be seen. The Government needed to bribe Nissan to stay in Sunderland and they were the first in a long queue of foreign investors demanding tax-payers money not to decamp to the continent. Overwhelming expert and business opinion says that a hard brexit would be disastrous for our economy and a soft brexit which requires free movement of people is not acceptable to Mrs May. The estimates of economic damage are big multiples of the net cost of EU membership so ironically Leave’s biggest lie about £350 million a day for the NHS may turn into a need to cut investment in the NHS to pay for our exit from the EU!

  • @Leekliberal

    The Remain lies were a list of things which would happen after we voted Leave. The Leave lies were a list of things which would happen after Brexit.

    “Overwhelming expert and business opinion says that a hard brexit would be disastrous for our economy” is just a restatement of Project Fear lies.

    Is this the same set of expert and business opinion which said we would be in a recession by now?

    My expert opinion is we will not know who is right and who is wrong in economic terms until five years or so after Brexit.

    If you can find an expert who ventures a different opinion you will have found a fool.

  • John Peters…

    Everything you write was based on the assumption by most commentators/voters, at the time, that we would immediately trigger ’50’…..Hence fall in sterling, etc….

    The long delays, confusion, etc. whilst not alleviating the initial ‘fall-out’, has created a situation reminiscent of the 1939/40 ‘Phoney War’….

    As then, the worst is yet to come….BTW there will be no ‘lease lend’ under a Trump led USA…We will really “Stand Alone” and May is no Churchill…

  • @expats

    I expect the Remain lies will have caveat after caveat applied as time goes on.

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 12:42pm


    “Everything you write was based on the assumption by most commentators/voters, at the time, that we would immediately trigger ’50’”

    This is a fallacy that keeps be perpetuated and one that Andrew Neil on both the Daily Politics and This Week showed not to be true. All the short term economic predictions (that have now been shown to have been wrong) were clearly stated as being based on the effect produced by a vote to leave, ‘not’ on the triggering article 50/the process beginning.

    The difference was clear.

    As I as Andrew Neil, pulled this up and showed this.

  • @ Jedibeeftrix
    “only a recognition of shared aims and expectations will answer the latter”

    This does not seem to me to be an argument based on democracy. The people I have voted for in UK Parliamentary elections have never been elected in my constituency. Therefore it could be said that my MP has never shared by aims and expectations. I also wish to see the system to elect MPs changed, but none of this makes the UK system undemocratic in the normal descriptions of democratic.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Nov '16 - 6:31pm

    @ Leekliberal – entirely agree with your points, and glad you came in as I was getting completely turned-off or lost by the long detailed discussion between Matt and Michael BG.
    @ Ethicsgradient – would very much appreciate it if you would tell us a little bit about yourself, though preferably not at the length Matt went to at Lorenzo’s request. All we know is that you are a Libertarian Free-trader and anti-EU. Are you male, female or transgender, perhaps? What is the meaning of your curious pseudonym? Are you a Liberal Democrat, or a member of any other party or group? It is somewhat difficult to debate with you, and though you may have good reasons for your anonymity, and we respect your privacy, please tell us some facts about yourself that can do you no harm.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    “though preferably not at the length Matt went to at Lorenzo’s request”

    Could you be any ruder and more hostile?

    I was asked a perfectly polite question from Lorenzo whether I was a LD and how do I square my views with this site.
    Yes I went to great lengths to provide an answer and to hopefully give Lorenzo some idea of who I am and where I am coming from.
    I apologise if I somehow inconvenienced you and bored you with my response, but then there is always the arrow down button that allows you to scroll past my comments.
    But I will tell you this. Due to severe depresssion, anxiety and Complex PTSD, I spend most of my life shut off from people and without a voice.
    When I do find the courage and energy to talk, albeit on a forum like this, I will not be shut down by the likes of people like you trying to make me feel even more insecure and an annoyance.
    I do have a voice and I am entitled to be heard, just as much as you are entitled to not listen. But lets not be rude about it.

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 7:07pm

    @Katharine Pindar )

    Hi Catherine, I am very happy to oblige you. completely fair to know where I stand politically.
    I am mid 30’s, male, pragmatic (probably my core thing) floating voter who has never been a member of any political party.

    My political views are mixed but over all libertarian.

    socially/societal: I am completely libertarian. equal rights for everyone irrespective of race, colour, creed , views and ideas. Broadly put as long as it is between two consenting adults and harms no one else then its fine by me. I would decriminalize all drugs and immediately and treat all heroin/crack users as patients. Thereby break the link to crime and help these poor souls off a terrible substance.
    Pragmatic side (legalise all drugs but any harmful ones, do as we did with tobacco very high prices with good clear evidence based warnings…. is that liberal though?)

    Economy: libertarian mixed with a dose of pragmatism. I believe that government should interfere as little as possibly in an economy. A government in the long term cannot create jobs, but must provide the landscape so that business can create jobs. I think I am a true 19C/early 20C liberal on this. Small, non-interfering government that regulates and sets boundaries for businesses to compete fairly. Large government intervention does not work. So I probably align with Thatcher on the government, at the same time she aligned with 19C free trade liberalism. I believe in as much free trade as possible. ideally complete unilateral free trade with the world (Hong kong prior to 1997).
    pragmatic side: Non government interference as an ideology yet I see the benefits of high tax, restricted sale of Tobacco. Also I accept in exceptional circumstances FDR 1930’s possibly right now large economical stimuli through infrastructure spending is useful. also support some government help when you get a short term effect of commodities dumping (as long as the area was viable before the shock and would be viable afterwards). So free trade with pragmatism

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 7:44pm

    defense: I am rght- wing I think. I think trident is necessary and works as a second-strike deterrent (i.e. nuclear weapons are already on there way to landing on UK cities) and am happy with 2% spending on the country. However I am not interventionist like Blair was and treat the use of military force as being the very last resort. But I would use it if needed. I would try to work through the UN but accept its limits because it natural ability to get gridlocked.

    civil liberties. I am pragmatist again on this one. socially completely liberal yet at the same time very supportive of police and crime fighting. pragmatically to me it says I am ok with mass data gathering at the moment as there is a genuine threat. I also think so much data cannot be used to control people but is useful to hunting down terrorist communications. I am wary of slipping into a big brother state though. I’m not clear where I am myself on this.

    world view: I am open, internationalist/globalist who does likes the nation state and think they reflect natural regional groupings of cultures/peoples. Of course cultures/people change, mingle and influence each other.. this is good. but you also have history, traditions affinities that should not be ignored. Conflicts happen when a political structure does not fit with the natural regional grouping.

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 7:51pm

    Europe/EU. I have always had problems with the trans-national political aspect of the EU. The ultimate drive to create a country based on the united states of Europe is not one I share. The drive to create peace and end the possibility of European war is good. However it ignores culture, history and natural regional groupings. I think it can only end in failure. The UK has always been different from continental Europe because if geography and history. This gets dismissed as ‘little englander’ but that just ignores a very real thing. Being an island means we have always had to look out. continental europe always to to look in towards itself. mass wars and land neighbours means there is something of transient allegiances and shifting positions and concords are normal. the UK (main part) being an island and not invaded for 1000 years means we are more black and white in our dealings. Churchill was right ” We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.”

    So Europe as a free trade area… great! EU as a political entity…….. no thanks.


    I am pro immigration. it is a good thing. Uncontrolled immigration is not good because it become impossible to plan out what services and infrastructure is needed. I am 100% with Gisela Stuart’s position. I know, work and socialise with lot of central and east europeans. all good people. all welcome. It pragmatism again. We have to be able to plan out enough schools, NHS services , houses and the rest.

    Ethics gradient meaning: It is a nod to one of my favorite authors Iain (M) Banks (it might have been grey area?). It’s nicely provocative but maybe also represents my balance between pragmatism and politician ideology. Pragmatism trumps political ideology everything. That I guess is why I am a floating voter. I don’t mind if it is left, right or middle idea. if it works lets use it. does that put my ethics on a gradient? i’ll leave that to you to decide.

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 8:11pm

    @Katharine Pindar

    Hi, I was just reading through. So Sorry to mis-spell your name at the very beginning Katharine with a K not a C. Sorry about that.

  • Ethicsgradient Thanks for your last post – very interesting. As I think you know, I disagree with you on what you say about politics at a supranational level. I also disagree with you about the history and geography. In much of the last 2000 years or so, our history has been intimately linked with the rest of Europe – I find it difficult to contend otherwise. Yes, we have been an island, and islands have a tendency to think in a – well, insular way – but having lived on various smaller islands, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t work democratically with other places. I would have thought your pragmatism would have led you to the conclusion that working with others democratically as some kind of entity is preferable to going through conflict and being forcibly absorbed (or alternatively fighting others just to retain the power to not work in that way with neighbours). We all share common problems and issues – we ought to work together, and surely better for people to participate in the decision making at that level. Sorry, I can’t understand it – I just feel that is the opposite of pragmatic. People these days feel politicians are “untrustworthy” etc etc, so why allow them the final say in international decisions, and no people’s democratic input?

  • @Katharine Pindar

    I have reflected on my previous comment and would like to withdraw part of it.

    I am disappointed in myself, I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and I played the disabled victim card. That is not appropriate, you do not know me or my circumstances and so i should not have implied the things that I said.
    It is not constructive to debate and does absolutely nothing to help the cause of people like me or in my circumstances.
    So I sincerely apologise for part of my comments. I still think you were being overly hostile towards me, though it should not have prompted the response that i gave.

    Kind Regards


  • to be clear, I regret saying
    “When I do find the courage and energy to talk, albeit on a forum like this, I will not be shut down by the likes of people like you trying to make me feel even more insecure and an annoyance.”

    That was entirely inappropriate of me and I apologise for that part of my comment

  • Matt European Commission (ers)
    Basically the Civil Service of the European Union – we in this country have a Civil Service which often “gilds the lily” of legislation much more than the EC. Because the EU draws democratic accountability from two sources, ie the European Parliament directly, and the Council of Ministers indirectly, then the Commission was given a role in drawing things together, but I can’t really see how that makes them “undemocratic”. Permanent Secretaries in the UK, or likewise civil servants at devolved level are appointed not elected also. If what you mean is that you hear more about them in the media than a British Permanent Secretary, equally that should not mean they have a less democratic status, should it? The concept of a supranational body run confederally, or federally is quite likely to involve structures somewhat different to a unitary state. Think about the complications we have run into in England since Scotland, Wales and NI have had devolved governments!

    As regards who nominates Commissioners (they are approved by the EP) there have been moves to streamline the system, but so far the voting has maintained the nominations from all countries. Just because an outcome is not to your taste does not mean it is undemocratic.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Nov '16 - 9:07pm

    @ Matt. Apologies, Matt, I really didn’t mean to criticise you. It was just a wry aside, the result of having been two hours on LDV, reading, learning, trying to remember which of the November Archives I’d contributed to, and so on. (I still haven’t found again the one where I was led to such an interesting report on Authoritarian Populism that I wrote out all the conclusions longhand, and shared them with a friend this afternoon!) We have such a wealth of pieces worth reading, as was your biographical note, which I shall reread. I am mortified to think I could upset you so much, because actually I also find LDV an essential part of my life, and think of it as a major community for me: to be open with you, I live alone now, and have only one friend locally and one in another part of the country with whom I can fully discuss Liberal politics. So I am personally grateful to have this outlet (as I have told the editors), and I do assure you I should hate to think I had contributed to your feeling unwelcome or that your comments will not be read attentively by me – which they will, with respect as before, but also with enhanced interest now.
    @ ethicsgradient. Thank you very much, it is really good to know so much more about you and your views! I’ve always been curious about people and generally sympathetic to diversity. I’d already gathered that your political views wouldn’t coincide very closely with mine, but as the thread I’ve lost track of was convincing me yesterday, we Liberal Democrats are going to need to draw on a wide variety of generally moderate but humane voters to advance our policies. So you may tend to be right of centre, my floating voter friend ( I really can’t say, dear ethics!), but I recall that Harold Wilson, that notable Labour leader, was famous for his pragmatism, so let’s wait and see where yours may take you! What we all need perhaps is a sense of humour more often – note to self! Now it’s high time at last to be reading The Observer … best wishes to both you gentlemen, and good night.

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 9:23pm

    Hi Tim13 –

    In reply to you post on ’20th Nov ’16 – 8:33pm’. Its really fascinating that we share a broadly similar outlooks (outwards, international, co-operation etc) and yet end up drawing very different conclusions. Neither is wrong or right oddly enough as they are opinions and views. Very interesting though. so why does my perceived pragmatism lead me to hold such different views to yourself? (I’ll try to be brief but I do struggle)

    Island mentality. this I would disagree with you. I think living on an lsland leads to being more outward looking that insular through necessity because you have to reach out to get the resources you need. At the same time though you have Japan who did close itself off for 200 year.. so…Hmm

    We definitely both agree working together on shared issues and problems is a great thing and much, much more preferable to conflict and annexing . Where we would diverge is how.

    I see trans-national bodies where sovereign nations cooperate and work together as the best solution (pragmatic solution?) rather than trans-national bodies that have sovereign powers to impose over the members (the EU and the 1973 European communities act placing EU law above that of the national states.
    That is where the problem lays. Because the demos do not relate to the European bodies ( it is not just the UK where most will not know who is the MEP representing them also the list system removes the direct link of electorate and representative) so therefore it ends seeming that EU directives and law are being imposed on people,

    So oddly in my (pragmatic) view it seems to me that the EU is now causing conflict and it could be said that it is also forcibly absorbing regions ( consider what has happened to Greece and Italy having a pm removed and replaced by a technocrat)

    Further to this I look at the economics of the EU and come to the conclusion that the EURO can and will never work. because (I’ll continue on another post)

  • Daniel Walker 20th Nov '16 - 9:36pm

    @ethicsgradient it is not just the UK where most will not know who is the MEP representing them also the list system removes the direct link of electorate and representative

    Just to be clear, the EU does not have the power to choose “the list system”; it is chosen by the national governments. It is required to be proportional, but that is all. Hence why Northern Ireland can use STV. I don’t like closed list systems either, but it is not the EU that imposes them.

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 9:42pm

    contd.. because…

    For the Euro (any single currency) to work you need a single country with a single banking system, single tax system an pooled liabilities of government debt, pensions, and social provision (same minimum wage benefits etc). I think the Euro was the height of putting ideology ahead of pragmatism. i.e. make a single currency and that will force the EU to integrate into a single country/union.

    this won’t happen because people are too attached to the idea of nation states within Europe (see my posts about on the support for nation states) and that is because Europe is not America (with newly formed states) rather it is sets of indigenous populations with 1000’s of years of history and culture.

    So the euro can never work. What does this mean for Europe. Well Italy has had 15 years of no growth. Greece, we all know about. Spain, Italy,. Greece and France has mass youth unemployment up. The central and eastern counties of Europe have lost a whole generation of their best and brightest because they have all moved to the UK and Germany.

    there is no end to this until the Euro changes into potentially 3 currencies. Euro north (economics set for industrial, services. tech), Euro South (economics set for agricultural, tourism and services), Euro east (economics, low age, new manufacturing, mixed). But this won’t work as it would destroy the notion of a single union.

    so from my pragmatic point of view, The EU seeming to impose directives, lack of the demos being connected to political structures and crazy ideology first drive,of creating the euro before having a single country means all I see the EU causing in the future are exactly the tensions and conflicts that trans-national organisations should be there to prevent.

    that is why i concluded that I would vote to leave (along with Accountability and sovereignty issues…. another time)

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 9:50pm

    @Daniel Walker,

    Hi, Yes I get your point.

    I would say counter to that , that very few people across the whole of the EU will know what constituency/region an MEP is representing. Be it that the region chooses list,STV or which ever flavour of voting system the region/country chooses. So my point is still valid that direct link between the electorate and representative is not clear to most leading to disconnect between the demos and the institutions.

  • ethicsgradient 20th Nov '16 - 10:12pm


    Hi in response to your comments about the commission…

    the key difference between the EU commission and the British civil service is that the commission acts as both the civil service and the executive of the EU, whereas in the UK the government is the executive and the civil service then carries out the directives of the government.

    The EU commission is with both policy formation and implementation happens. In the UK policy formation happens through manifesto’s, elections ans then government programs.

    It is a massive democratic deficient. The effective government of the EU is appointed not elected. OK I get the idea that it is indirectly democratic as the appointments are made by directly elected national governments. However!……

    It is exactly this grey area where all the bureaucracy and unaccountable power gathering and corruption has developed. This leads to and is the democratic deficient that the EU has.

    The other area of a democratic oversight is through Mep’s. But as I have posted above in reality how strong is the link between the Mep and the person being represented. Very weak is my contention. This again leads to corruption and waste. An example is the sign in and sod off form of the EU parliament.

    I cannot see how this will ever be reformed.

  • ethisgradient
    The European Council sets the policy agenda. The council of ministers is the main decision making body. To call the Commission the ‘effective government of the EU’ is just plain wrong. If it were true no country would want to be in the EU.

  • ethicsgradient 21st Nov '16 - 12:03am



    you are correct that European council sets policy agenda and the council of minsters feeds into decision making on those agenda’s, you miss out that the commission is also a main part of the executive (government) of the EU. It feed backs and helps to set the agenda at european council via the president. Importantly it initiates legislation that council of minsters can amend.

    Precisely because the Commission are the gatekeepers of legislation, this gives is unprecedented powers. i.e. the can guide/influence the agenda set at the European council, meaning that the agenda will then fit to the legislation the commission have already decided to follow. The commission can then in turn allow only the legislation they wish to proceed with and potentially block areas they want to stop.

    It is insipid unaccountable (at least not directly accountable) powerful part of the EU executive.

  • ethicsgradient
    I’ll grant you that the Commission is a bit more than a civil service but is not by any stretch of the imagination the ‘effective government’.

  • ethicsgradient 21st Nov '16 - 1:02am


    I appreciate this is a wiki but it a well sourced and accurate one.

    if you take a look at what it says on the European council and commission. You’ll see that the commission is the effective day-to-day executive of the EU and initiates nearly all legislation. The national governments appoint the each commissioner and then the president gives out the portfolio’s. the commissioners then work independently of the national governments. Very indirect democracy and very little accountability. Over what is clearly the day-to-day European government.

    The European council of ministers meets 4 times a year to set agenda.

    Who has more control? who has more power? Commission working everyday with European civil service support all over the detail or minsters who meet once every 3 months and get a briefing? I would say it is the commission who themselves are appointed,not elected.

    This is precisely why I voted to leave. My primary reason. My close second reason is related to the damage and conflicts that the failure of the Euro is and will continue to cause. I have posted about this above.

    These both outweigh to benefits brought through closer corporation and international working-together. Both of which can easily be replicated through trans-national agreements rather than being connected to a trans-national political union. I think of science collaborations supply chains and free-trade. All easily achievable if both sides desire it, instead we get talk of punishment politics.

  • @ Katharine Pindar
    I don’t know why you thought it was necessary to write and post “I was getting completely turned-off or lost by the long detailed discussion between Matt and Michael BG.”

    I am pleased to have the opportunity to explore the issue of how and why people think the EU is undemocratic. This seems to me to be worth pursuing so we can know, if we do stay in the EU, what reforms we need to be calling for.

    @ John Peters

    Would you like to respond to my comment of 19th Nov ’16 4:41pm pointing out that the parallels between the UK and the EU regarding laws being forced on minorities?

    @ Jebibeeftrix

    You wrote “only a recognition of shared aims and expectations will answer the latter”, which is why I used the same words. I am not sure your comment makes sense in the context of why not sharing the aims and expectations of those elected makes the system undemocratic which is what you were proposing I think. My point was if you do not like what a democratic organisation does you should vote for people who share you aims, but just because they are not the majority is not a reason to call the organisation undemocratic.

  • @ matt

    The Council of the European Union is the Council of Ministers and is one of the two legislatures of the EU according to Wikipedia ( The European Council “comprises the heads of state or government of the member states, along with the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission …. While the European Council has no formal legislative power, it is a strategic (and crisis-solving body) ….(its meetings are) still commonly referred to as EU summits ….” ( Therefore I must be talking about the Council of Ministers.

    The impression I have is that people who say that the EU is undemocratic are not making the same claim about the UK. If the constitution of the EU was used for a country like the USA the question becomes can it be made democratic? I think this has to be answered with a yes, even if it is only a theoretical.

    I have already written about changing the Commission. In the UK I don’t think it is possible for Parliament to remove a Cabinet member except by pressure, therefore this does not seem different from the EU. How are UK ministers more accountable to the people than Commissioners (who have to be confirmed by the EU Parliament)? The Prime Minister is not elected directly by the people. Therefore I don’t understand why you don’t think having the President elected by Parliament would be better than just confirmation as now? I also don’t understand why you don’t think having this elected President appoint the Commissioners, like the PM appoints Cabinet members in the UK or the President in the USA, would be an improvement. If you think the UK is undemocratic why is this less of a problem than the EU?

    According to Wikipedia the Commission has the power to take member states to the Court of Justice if they do not implement the legislation of the EU. If they didn’t have this power it would need to be exercised by another body. I don’t understand why this is worse that unelected Police Forces enforcing UK laws.

    In the UK the government (PM and Cabinet) have huge powers much greater than the Commission they can pass regulations with hardly any oversight and these have the force of law.

  • @Katharine Pindar
    Thank you for your post, I appreciated reading it.

    I really enjoyed reading your posts, very thought provoking and informing. On matters of the EU and the Euro Currency, I am in complete agreement, I just wish I could articulate myself as well as you do.

    @Michael BG
    I am sorry, I am still getting confused, I think we maybe talking about different entities.
    my problem is with the EU commissioners, were as you seem to be focusing on the council of Ministers.
    Eu Commissioners are not elected or accountable to the people, they are each appointed by their nations head of state.
    I understand that the EU parliament gets to approve through a vote these appointments, however, that is not the same as being accountable or elected by the people of the country that they represent, though I do understand that once we have appointed our commissioner, they are not there to represent the people of the UK but Europe as a whole.
    All the power lies with these unelected commissioners, Setting budgets,Proposing laws and legislation, ultimately deciding which laws are to be adopted and which amendments to reject.. No unelected body should have that much control and power over 500 + Million people
    “How are UK ministers more accountable to the people than Commissioners (who have to be confirmed by the EU Parliament”
    UK Ministers have been selected from a group of Parliamentarians who have been elected, albeit from their local constituents to represent them in Parliament. A Commissioner from the UK in theory never needed to even have worked in politics or ever held office, the appointment is at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister.
    Ministers are more accountable in theory as the electorate know what their political persuasions are. If they don’t like the candidate then they have they choice not to elect them to represent them in Government in the first place.
    Commissioners, we have no such insight as to what their political persuasions are, they don’t even have to share their vision for what the UK / EU relationship should look like. They are given a free reign to do exactly as they please with no accountability whatsoever.
    That can never be right in my opinion.

    Ultimately though it comes down to the fact that the 28 EU Commissioners have ultimate control over what laws to propose, how they are implemented and whether or not to accept amendments from the Elected MEP’s

  • Alex Macfie 21st Nov '16 - 1:21pm

    matt: But appointing ministers from Parliament has a downside as well. It leads to the so-called “payroll vote”, guaranteeing the government a certain number of votes in any division. Additionally, MPs jockey for places in the government and opposition teams, making them much more obedient than in legislatures that are completely separate from the executive, such as the European Parliament. Party discipline is much weaker in the EP than in the UK Parliament, such that by Westminster standards nearly all MEPs are party rebels.

  • @Alex Macfie
    “But appointing ministers from Parliament has a downside as well. It leads to the so-called “payroll vote”, guaranteeing the government a certain number of votes in any division.”
    I agree, there are many problems with the UK System which need reforms. The Number of Ministers and PPS being on the Government payroll being a big one.

    “Additionally, MPs jockey for places in the government and opposition teams, making them much more obedient than in legislatures that are completely separate from the executive, such as the European Parliament”
    But I have been talking about the EU Commission not the EU Parliament. The EU Commission is both the Executive and the Legislatures.
    In most Democracies the members of a legislature are called legislators; in a democracy, legislators are almost always elected. Not so though in the EU with the EU Commission

  • @ Ethicsgradient

    “the UK (main part) being an island and not invaded for 1000 years”

    This is a myth, what about Prince Louis (future King Louis VIII in May 1215 who was proclaimed king of England in St Paul Cathedral, London? By June 1216 he control over half of England.
    What about Prince William of Orange (III King of England) who landed his army of 15,000 men at Brixham in southwest England on 5th November 1688 and replaced the rightful Stuart King – James II?

    And there were others, but these were mostly not foreigners.

    @ Ethicsgradient

    Do those UK voters who know who their MP is, know this because they put a cross on ballot paper every (now) five years? Or because they see their MP on TV (and possible in the newspaper)? I think it is the later. Therefore the lack of coverage of members of the European Parliament is why people do not know who their MEP is. I wonder if Catherine Bearder’s name is recognised by more people now she is the only Liberal Democrat MEP. No one would argue that Nigel Farage was an unknown MEP.

    I agree with you the Commission is like a UK Cabinet, i.e. they are in charge of “departments” and have civil servants working for them.

    I also agree that the Euro was a mistake and it is not helped by the European Central Bank and German economic policies.

    However we do have a shared history with Western Europe. Apart from when Victoria was Queen we were involved in all major wars involving the main powers of Europe from about 1657. We held French lands from 1066 to 1558. We held Dunkirk 1658-62. We had an army in the Netherlands 1577-1609.

  • @ Jedibeeftrix

    Thank you explaining your position more. I still think you are wrong. I think the problem lies elsewhere.

    Germany and France do not have “a history of cooperation”. They have history of conflict with a brief pause during the reign of Louis the Pious. Your argument means that democracy can only exist where there are not different peoples living in the same country. This is clearly not true. The USA is an example with a long history of having lots of different peoples living in it.

    However I do not accept that the UK has these shared aims and expectations in the way you seem to be using these terms. Between 1979 and 1997 the people of Scotland (no matter their nationality) did not see the Conservative government working for their benefit. There are lots of people who think UK governments (since maybe 1979) have been working for the benefit of south-east England and London and not them.

    What I do accept is that for a democracy to work there has to be a recognition that the country should not be governed exclusively for the majority and that the minority are protected from the dictatorship of the majority.

    Do you support independence for Scotland and Wales?

    The EU does not work against UK interests nor the interests of British people. Both the Commissioners and members of the EU Parliament take oaths to serve the interests of the whole EU. This not to say that national governments do not try to protect their national interests (but it is in the nature of democracy for representatives to represent the interests of the people living in the geographical area from which are elected). It might be argued that national interests in the EU are what stops democracy working. The Euro zone would work better if all countries in it treated everyone like members of their own country.

    One of the problems of the EU is the idea that we are travelling in the direction of closer union and there is either great difficulty in reversing decisions or a general perception that decisions cannot be reversed.

  • ethicsgradient 21st Nov '16 - 4:24pm

    @Michael BG

    Hi, i accept your history and don’t want to get to pedantic about it. I accept the glorious revolution was an effective coup d’etat. the 100 year thing represents that there hasn’t been an England V’s Continental power land battle on UK soil since 1066. of course other wars (wales, Scotland, roses, civil war, etc) have had some continental involvement.

    The reason European Mp’s aren’t widely known or connected is for 2 reasons. 1) European parliament is still seen as remote and not really relevant to most peoples lives. 2) because MEP’s are elected my PR for made up regions that don’t have any history such as north-east, north-west when people thing in counties when it comes to represnetation (Yorkshire, Derbyshire etc). People do not feel any geographical connection and therefore no representation.

    It is also that the UK has a FPTP system ( the great benefit of which is the idea of the local constituency mp). It really is true that most people do actually know who there local Westminster MP is and know if they needed to they could and see them if needed. That connection does not exist with mep’s (yes the do surgeries but most won’t know who they are or where it is).

    This disconnect is not down to publicity/ awareness it is due to the system used.

    We do have a shared history but as I have posted previously Churchill’s quote sums it up perfectly “We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.”

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Nov '16 - 4:30pm

    This debate on how democratic the EU government is fascinates me, and I appreciate the work everyone has been putting into it, eg Ethics leading me to the Wikipedia definitions, Matt and Michael BG, Tim13 and Andrew R., all contributing so usefully. I think I agree with Michael BG that there could be some reform, such as the President of the Commission being elected by the Parliament, but I do see the point (Ethics) that in effect the Commission is most powerful, and understand I think why you and Matt can’t accept the structures. To me, the system seems to be basically as good as it can be for a trans-national sharing of powers, even though not very democratic, and not easy for ordinary people to relate to. If we stay in or return to it, there should surely be a concerted effort to make our MEPs and their contributions better known and seek more power for the Parliament, as Michael BG seems to want. (Michael, you and Matt were fine, I was just tired then.) However, I also agree with Tim13 that our long common political and cultural history with the rest of Europe counts for a lot (the Romans took no notice of our being an island, and we share their heritage still!), and that this imperfect system is far better than the conflicts which proceeded it. I take the long view.
    Moreover, as has also been pointed out, there are ‘democratic deficits’ in the UK Government system too, notably the unelected House of Lords, from which some Government ministers are appointed (which I think outrageous), and the First Past the Post System which ensures that in numerous constituencies many votes don’t count as much as they should. Democracy is a hard ideal but worth aspiring to, which we all here seem to do.

  • @ matt

    I am sorry that I haven’t be clearer.

    You wrote, “But Democracy is my ultimate reason.”

    I wrote “Are you really saying that if the European Parliament elected the President and the President appointed the Commission and both were accountable to the European Parliament in the same way as UK governments and members of the European Parliament had the same limited rights to propose legislation as UK MPs your “ultimate” reason would not exist?”

    You wrote, “No I am no saying that at all.”

    It is this that I do not understand. I don’t understand if the Commission is a major problem then why if it was changed to be exactly like UK cabinets and the members of the EU Parliament had the same limited opportunities as UK MPs to propose legislation why these two issues would still be a problem. (I assume you are aware that in the UK Parliament it is government ministers who propose most of the UK laws [with MPs only having private member bills] and that the PM has sole discretion to appoint who they wish [they can and have in the past appointed people who are not members of either house and then rectified it afterwards]).

    The reason I wrote about the Council of Ministers was to reply to “Just to be clear are we talking about the European Council here or the council of ministers or the council of Europe?”

    I am not aware that Commissioners have a veto on amendments do you have a reference for this?

    @ Ethicsgradient

    There were military operations in England up until 1745. I think the French landed troops in Ireland after this as a way to bring war to the UK.

    When the UK used the FPTP for MEPs (1979-95) there is no evidence more people knew who their MEP was.

  • Daniel Walker 21st Nov '16 - 10:47pm

    @matt “Ultimately though it comes down to the fact that the 28 EU Commissioners have ultimate control over what laws to propose, how they are implemented and whether or not to accept amendments from the Elected MEP’s”

    The European Parliament, can, and has, rejected laws initiated by the Commission. Those laws do not pass. Ditto the Council. Like Katherine says, there’s room for improvement, but to quote Frank Herbert, The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it.. The EU Parliament can destroy a law proposed by the Commission (as can the Council), so that is where the ultimate control lies.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Nov '16 - 8:44am

    @matt: “The EU Commission is both the Executive and the Legislatures.”
    NO IT IS NOT. The EU Commission is the Executive; it is not a legislature at all. I have no idea where you get the idea that it is a legislature.
    @ethicsgradient: MEPs were elected by FPTP up until the 1994 election, after which it changed to the closed list system we have now. They werenot well known among the public then either. In other European countries with list systems MEPs are much better known to the public than here. So the electoral system has little if anything to do with it.

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