OPINION: Having a second Brexit referendum is the only way ‘to take back control’

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”, argues Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.

OPINION: Having a second Brexit referendum is the only way 'to take back control'
Photo: AFP
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.
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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.
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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’
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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.

Member comments

  1. “I have never, can never, will never respect the result of the 2016 Referendum result.”

    You are not democratic, eh? Lucky for us you aren’t in charge, then.

    You can vote Remain in Brexit Vote 2, and then I’ll vote Leave in Brexit Vote 3. Brexit vote 4 can include an option to become the 51st US state, and then Brexit Vote 5 can add an option to legalise the non-respecting of democratic votes.

  2. Typical of pro-Brexiteers to insult the intelligence of Leavers whenever possible eh?

    But we all already knew that – Remainers lack humility and affection for the common man. They have lost this cultural value true Britishers have, and only have affection for their globalist, technocrat, elitist brethren. You can leave for Chez Toi in France if you want, no worries. No to a 2nd vote!

  3. Yet to hear a truly valid reason for leaving the EU from Mr. Boggy and his friends. All clouded in stupid jingoistic rhetoric and inflammatory misinformation from certain politicians and cheap newspapers. Most of the Remain voters seem to recognise that we live in a Global economy and even then, we are just an average player in that act.
    Go ahead Mr. Boggy….put your head in the sand…..possibly you won’t notice the rapid decline of the U.K. on the world stage. Is that the underlying agenda of the more aggressive Leave Campaigners!!!!

  4. Freddy, the idea that we can’t have vote after vote after vote is not jingoistic, nor inflammatory? We had a vote, Leave won – nothing more to be said. Remainers just want a vote until they get THEIR way, but that is not democracy!

    But I bet you think Chez Moi’s “so there!” is a valid reason for staying in the EU, eh? Most likely. Very aristocratic mindset, of course. Freddy seems to care more about the “global economy” and “the world stage” more than he does democracy and the principle of one person=one vote. Disgusting, frankly.

    That’s the problem with Remainers – they don’t have principles, just personal interests. Sorry if I can’t be a slave to mine – question of morals, really. And quite sorry that the merely self-interested didn’t carry the day – we Brexit this month!!!

  5. Hardly a legitimate voting process when people were deliberately misled with so much false information on the so called benefits of Brexit. Perhaps the accusation of “self-interest” should be leveled at the “Exiteers”. How can they honestly justify that leaving the EU can be good for Britain and its people. Do I sense a class war argument here….the under-classes being exploited !!! I hope that more intelligent thinking will prevail, as I am confident it will.

  6. It is inherently condescending to say Leavers were “misled” – we were not, because we are just as intelligent as Remainers. They don’t believe that, surely, arrogant as they are to keep calling us all mere dupes.

    Sue Wilson and her hogwash claims that Brexit was determined by “foreign funding”. Blaming Putin now, is it Sue? Well that may work with Sue and her rich expat mates in Spain, and with the Americans, but it doesn’t fly back home in England! But it’s Leavers who are the stupid ones, is that right?

    We won’t let the anti-democratic EU ignore THIS anti-EU vote, as they did with all the other ones, no matter what the EU’s 5th columnists try in England! Remain lost and the UK WILL ABIDE by democracy. Brexit is this month, finally!

    Quit throwing a wobbly and go back to enjoying your gilded expat life on the Continent – leave the running of the UK to us, as you already all did, eh? Bloody toff wankers, banksters and barristers driving up the price of homes over there and fugh all else. Right menaces you are, wherever you are! Brexit is upon us, saints be praised!!!

  7. Oh dear….Mr. Boggy sounding a bit rattled. Thank goodness some of us “bloody tiffs” and Barristers are there to save Britain from such militant rubbish. Perhaps many Brits decided to live on the Continent to escape such right wing illiteracy!

  8. Poor Mr. Boggy is upset? Insulting others is a great way to get your way.
    Did he read “how to make friends and influence people?”
    Any more than Mrs. May did?

  9. Thanks Chez Moi,
    My House Master at Harrow always said ” Buon sangue non mente ” (Good blood never lies)
    I think the English equivalent is ” Breeding will out”

  10. Well, what can I say. The “arguements” that Mr.Boggy puts forward says it all about Brexiteers !

  11. We keep having the 17.5 million voters have to be respected line shoved down our throats, but nobody says WHAT ABOUT THE 45 MILLION WHO DIDNT VOTE LEAVE. No referendum on such an important issue should have been acted upon with such a narrow margin based on lies. And since then the right wing of the most Ring wing Tory party in years along with the DUP are ruling events. And N.I voted overwhelmingly Remain. Brexit is economically and socially a disaster and has to be stopped. All in the name of a few ultra rich wanting to avoid eU tax evasion laws, and its sod the rest of you! If it’s such a good thing why have Brexiters like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Dyson moved their finances and business out of the U.K., along with a long list of other industries and investments!

  12. Such a sad exchange of personal trivia when we have such a serious situation before us. The social, economic, and cultural factors here are crucial. I would be very interested in the age profiles of the keen protagonists on both sides. But the key people to give their opinion are the younger generation. My 21 yr old son is a student, a British and French citizen by birthright, doing an internship in France, but unsure where he’ll try to work after graduation. He certainly wants and needs the complete flexibility to live and work anywhere in the EU as it is now, not forced to choose between “the Continent” (as described by the Daily Telegraph in the 1930’s), or the island of Great Britain.Let’s think a bit more about our offspring and less about “me,me,me” and then reflect more calmly on staying or leaving

  13. Cannot agree more. What a great shame there was not age cut-off point in the referendum…it will really impact on younger people. Talking to many people who voted to leave the EU , many now have deep regrets. One hears excuses such as…”I wanted to protest against Cameron”………”protest against immigration ” etc etc. This was not a time for stupid protest voting…or thinking “we survived the Blitz..we can cope with anything “. Now the real issues are more obvious and the mess deepens. Just about every poll indicates a very different result in the event of a second referendum. No one could have knowingly voted for the present messy situation…could they ?

  14. LOL Freddy, now you want to limit voting rights to certain age groups? You really are a Little Lord, eh? Maybe you want to enact some “breeding” laws too, as you mentioned?

    And then you have PTB who claims “WHAT ABOUT THE 45 MILLION WHO DIDN’T VOTE LEAVE” – this person is giving voting rights to babies and children. Totally daft – it’s as if she thinks democracy is like running a nursery. As if a child should have the same influence in our society as our elders…. It’s a world upside down!

    Honestly, the anti-democratic inclinations of those who want a 2nd referendum – and their total obliviousness to this fact COMBINED with their smugness – is astounding. A postponement by Parliament takes the decision out of the hands of the people! Brexit this month!!!

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.