Since the fateful day of 23 June 2016, I have never been able to respect the result of the Brexit referendum.
At first, my lack of acceptance was due to my reaction of shock, anger and sadness. It was then exacerbated by the emerging lies and misinformation of the Vote Leave campaign, which persuaded so many people to vote the way they did, through no fault of their own.
Over time, it has become increasingly clear that the people behind the lies and misinformation were complicit in breaking the law, including some senior members of government.
The Vote Leave Campaign were fined the maximum amount possible by the Electoral Commission, having exceeded legal spending limits, especially in the run-up to the referendum. Vote Leave was subsequently referred to the Metropolitan Police and National Crime Agency to answer possible criminal charges.
Several months later, we still await the outcome – or any news whatsoever – of those investigations.
Recently, I took Theresa May to court, through the UK in EU Challenge, to question the validity of the referendum result. The premise of our case, known as “Wilson vs. The Prime Minister”, was that the illegal activity renders the result of the referendum unsound, and that the Prime Minister made an error of judgement in activating Article 50 in the belief she was acting on the “will of the people”.
Our legal team believes that Leave’s overspend directly affected the referendum result and, even if it hadn’t, the result was still invalid.
Just think: if an athlete won an Olympic gold medal and was later discovered to have taken drugs, they would forfeit the medal and the win, even if they claimed that they would have won anyway, without cheating.
When electoral rules are broken in a general or local election, the result of the election is overturned. Had the Brexit referendum been binding in law, those same rules would apply.
However, it was an advisory referendum, so was not bound by those rules. The fact that the government decided to act as if it were binding was considered irrelevant by the justices hearing our case.
Accusing pro-Europeans of being undemocratic or of failing to respect the referendum result is a favourite argument of Brexiters. Despite the narrowest of margins, our country and parliament have been asked to accept the referendum result, even though many consider it unsound.
Ironically, we don’t hear mention of respecting the result of the first ‘meaningful vote’ by parliament, despite May’s defeat by the largest margin in British political history.
Rather, parliament is being given another vote to see if it has changed its’ mind, while the public is being denied the same opportunity.
Furthermore, rumours coming from Westminster suggest that if May’s second vote fails, as expected, on March 12, she’s already considering a ‘meaningful vote’
Many Leave voters would accept any version of Brexit, regardless of the potential damage to their country, so long as the UK leaves the EU – such is their desire to cut all ties.
These voters are entitled to their views, just as I am entitled to my view – that Brexit is complete and utter madness.
Then there are those who voted Leave directly because of lies and false promises. May’s current version of Brexit bears no resemblance to what Farage, Johnson, Gove and others led them to expect.
Meanwhile, some Remain voters are so sick of the current scenario that they simply want Brexit to be over, no matter what. With speculation that negotiations may go on for the next five to ten years should we proceed, the only logical way to avoid Brexit dragging on for years is to halt it altogether.
Whatever kind of Brexit you voted for, or against, I’m pretty sure that none of us wanted a major change in the UK’s future to be determined by criminal activity and foreign funding.
If it’s reasonable and appropriate to give parliament another say, surely the British public should be given another chance to answer the question?
I have never, can never, will never respect the result of the 2016 Referendum result.
I will, however, respect the result of the next one – if it is conducted in a fair, honest and legal way – even if I don’t like the result.
We may have lost our court case, but the issues we raised are now in the public domain.
The media and politicians are finally starting to ask the right questions and hopefully the guilty parties will soon face the full force of the law.
When we finally achieve another referendum – this time on the content of the deal, rather than a fantasy version of Brexit – the least we should expect is that it will be conducted under much stricter scrutiny.
Isn’t it high time we “took back control” of the referendum process to establish if leaving the EU really is the “will of the people”? If it is, so be it – I will have to live with that – but more likely we’ll soon discover it’s no longer what the majority wants, if it ever was.
By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain, a member of the British in Europe coalition.