By Vexen Crabtree 2019
Brexit is undemocratic and invalid. Here are the reasons why:
Unconstitutional: The United Kingdom is comprised of four countries - England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Constitutional-level alterations to the UK require unanimous approval from all four countries, but, in the 2016 referendum of membership of the EU, Northern Ireland voted Remain by 56% and Scotland by 62%. Brexit only had a mandate in England and Wales.
Undemocratic: Because of population differences, even if every one of the 10.2 million people in Wales, Scotland and NI voted against a piece of pro-English legislation, only 10% of England would have to vote for it in order to force it on the other three, because England's population 55.3 million. 87.2% of all Brexit voters were in England. A referendum is always "the will of England" rather than "the will of the UK".
The UK signed the Venice Commission's 2006 document on how to run a referendum along democratic lines. Section 2.3 clearly states that a referendum is only democratic if minority countries (NI and Scotland) are not forced into decisions by a majority nation (England).1
No consensus, no 'will of the people': 37% voted leave, 35% voted remain and 28% remained. The victory margin is not enough to force through changes of this magnitude. Before the referendum, Leave campaigners created a petition arguing that if the majority was less than 60%, then, the referendum was not a valid indicator of the will of the people. The result was below this threshold.
Misinformation: There was no informed vote: The UK's citizens are the least knowledgeable about the EU2 and have suffered from many high-profile long-term campaigns ran by sensationalist newspapers with anti-EU agendas3,4. The Leave Campaign Director Dominic Cummings admitted in 2017 that the Leave campaign relied on lies and misinformation5.3
The Leave Campaign Was Illegal: The UK's House of Commons has found that the Vote Leave campaign committed "serious breaches" of campaign law6,7, with millions poured in by anti-EU foreign government and anti-democratic institutions in Russia8. Cambridge Analytica illegally influenced an uncountable number of people with targeted misinformation based on data obtained from a Facebook data breach. Vote Leave intentionally broke electoral law by donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to avoid spending limits9 and Leave.EU has also been found guilty in court of committing four electoral offences during their own campaign9. Illegal overspending influenced "tens of millions" of people, and statistics show that it directly led to over 800,000 people changing their minds10, changing the result of the referendum.3
In democracies constitutional changes or other endemic changes to the national structure, first require a super-majority or a unanimous agreement of all regions. This is designed to prevent division, sectarianism, violence and popularism being a destabilizing force: democracies must be protected against short-term or fragmentary movements that have temporary appeal, but which damage the country in the long-run.
In the 2016 Referendum, only half of the UK's four nations voted to Leave11. Northern Ireland voted to Remain by 56%, and Scotland by 62%. To leave in a democratic manner, all four nations had to vote to leave.
242 Constituencies (of 648) voted to Remain11. The UK has 14 overseas territories, such as Gibraltar: These voted by 96% to Remain in the EU, as did locations such as the Shetland Islands and Orkney Islands.
This makes withdrawal from the EU undemocratic, supported only by mainland Brits, not by the rest of the UK. 87% of all Brexit voters were in England. It is not democratic for a single bloc of England and Wales to force Brexit upon all the other parts of the UK.
A democracy involves all regions and all nations that fall within a country: this is why constitutional changes require unanimous agreement (or at least a supermajority). Brexit did not meet either democratic criteria.
There is no single "will of the people" unless the majority is clear and large. This was not the case with the 2016 Referendum on Leaving or Remaining in the EU. There was no clear victor in that vote. To make such widespread changes to a country, you need more than a slight majority. This is to protect the country from actions that cause division and instability. There are many highly vocal Leave activists who do not understand why democracies are protected in this way, but there are some that do.
Before the 2016 Referendum, a UK petition was created, supported and popularized by the Leave campaign: Over 4 million signed it. It argued that if the majority was less than 60%, then, the Referendum was not a valid display of the will of the people. Of those who voted Leave or Remain, only 52% voted Leave. The Leave Campaign very quickly forgot that this Petition had existed and forgot how democracy works, preferring instead a simplified and dangerous version of rule-by-majority - the kind of "democracy" that quickly destabilizes into popularist intolerance, sectarianism and violence.
The UK has been one of the 60 signatories on a Venice Commission document, "Code of Good Practice on Referendums" (2006)1 since it was first produced. Section 2.3 of that document has a very clear stipulation about minority nations: "there may sometimes be grounds for taking into account the specific circumstances of national minorities... a double majority of electors within that territory and throughout the country may be required"1.
If Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were negatively impacted by a proposed constitutional change, and every single person in those countries voted against it, the total votes in mid-2016 would have been 10million. All three of those notions can be overridden if only 10% of England votes for the change. This is clearly deeply undemocratic and it is what Section 2.3 of the Venice Commission's document is designed to protect against1.
In the case of the Remain/Leave Referendum in 2016, Northern Ireland voted to Remain by 56%, and Scotland by 62%. To leave in a democratic manner in accordance with the UK's own policy (as per our signing of VC2006), all four nations had to vote to leave.
The UK population did not have enough realistic information about the EU to make an informed decision on whether they should vote Remain or Leave. The UK's citizens are the least knowledgeable about the EU out of all its members2 and has suffered from many high-profile long-term campaigns ran by sensationalist newspapers with anti-EU agendas and little regard for balanced reporting3,4. Of those who voted in the Brexit vote, 70% of those with the worst education voted to Leave but amongst those with degree level education or higher, only 32% did12. The reason for this is that Brexit relied on short-sighted one-liner slogans, which appealed to the uneducated. Only now, in 2019, are there signs that we are beginning to tackle the details. At some point soon, it will be the right time for a referendum.
The Leave Campaign Director Dominic Cummings admitted in 2017 Feb that the public voted to exit the EU as a result of lies and misinformation5. The UK's House of Commons has found that the Vote Leave campaign involved "serious breaches" of campaign law7, especially "in their use of social media"6, and several key campaign groups (i.e. UKIP) were funded by Russian-interest groups. Likewise, anti-EU campaigners in the USA donated significant time and effort to the Leave campaign - contributing an equivalent value of millions of dollars - especially with regards to Steve Bannon and Arron Banks8. The illegal activities of Cambridge Analytica influenced an uncountable number of people with targeted misinformation, based on data obtained from a Facebook data breach. Vote Leave intentionally broke electoral law during its campaign when it donated hundreds of thousands of pounds in order to get around campaigning spending limits9 and Leave.EU has also been found in the central London county court of committing four electoral offences during their own campaign9. The online advertising gained through illegal overspending influenced "tens of millions" of people, and statistics show that it directly led to over 800,000 people changing their minds10. These illegal elements skewed the Brexit vote, made it invalid, and damaged UK democracy. The Remain campaign was more honest but it was very sparse, and the mass media chose to only pick up on the disreputable "project fear" element (knee-jerk claims that painted an unbelievably dystopian future if the UK left the EU). In total, the entire debate was poor quality and "a distinctly unpleasant affair"13 and lacked the calm rationality required for a referendum.
Current edition: 2019 Apr 20
Parent page: UK Brexit from the EU: Disorganized, Unclear and Unprepared
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
The Independent. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper.
The Guardian. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper.
House of Commons (UK Government)
(2018) Disinformation and 'fake news´: Interim Report. Published by House of Commons (UK Government). Fifth Report of Session 2017–19 together with formal minutes relating to the report. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 24 July 2018. A briefing paper.
(2017 Mar 26) 9 Pro-Brexit Stories Since Proven To Be Utterly Inaccurate. Date last accessed 2018 Jun 12. An article.
(2017 Feb 08) Vote Leave director admits they won because they lied to the public. Date last accessed 2017 Jul 28. An article.
(2006) Code of Good Practice on Referendums. Date last accessed 2019 Apr 20. The European Commission for Democracy Through Law - Venice Commission. Part of the Council of Europe on www.venice.coe.int.