Alan Greene – Brexit: The People have spoken…but who asked them in the first place?

DELI Blog

Dr Alan Greene (Durham Law School, Durham University)

‘The people have spoken, the bastards.’ – Dick Tuck

Referendums are blunt tools, framing often complex issues into deceptively simple binary choices. A referendum on membership of the EU was always going to struggle to adequately cover the complexities raised by this question in a constructive form. This post will briefly discuss two separate but related issues raised by the divisive Brexit referendum campaign. Firstly, I will draw upon Irish experiences of referendums as an illustrative example of how the UK could improve future referendums, highlighting key procedural problems with Brexit. Secondly, I will discuss whether the referendum itself is a flawed procedural concept or whether Brexit points to something deeper that is wrong with British parliamentary democracy.

EU Referendums: Lessons from Ireland

Ireland, with a similarly structured Westminster-style parliamentary democracy to the UK’s, is no stranger to referendums. Since its constitution…

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