Cameron’s Phony Referendum

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read
Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read
Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

When is a referendum not a referendum? Answer — when it is a politically convenient device used by a slippery Prime Minister in trouble with half his MPs.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

The EU Referendum held on the 23rd of June was phony. It has no legal consequences. That in turn means that it has no effect. Whoever becomes leader of the Tory Party and thus Prime Minister of Great Britain, will, if she or he wishes to cause the UK to leave the EU, have to follow the normal Parliamentary procedure for the making of law. It could take years for legislation to pass, if it is not blocked from the start by the majority of pro-EU MPs.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read
Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Let me explain.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

First let’s look at how laws are made in the UK. Source: http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

First, a Draft Bill is published. This would usually be called a White Paper or a Green Paper. The former is a Paper that proposes the Government’s specific intention and the latter is a broader consultation document.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Once the Draft Bill is agreed, it is presented to Parliament as a Bill for ‘examination, discussion and amendment’.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Commons and Lords

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

The Bill then goes through its First and Second Readings in the House of Commons. Amendments may be made as a consequence of the debates on these Readings. It then goes to the Committee Stage, for technical and legal revision. After that, the Report is published and the Bill has a Third Reading in the Commons.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

We’re not done yet. Once the Commons has approved the Bill it goes to the House of Lords, where it goes through exactly the same process: two Readings, Committee and Report, and Third Reading. A Bill ‘must be approved in the same form by both Houses before becoming an Act (law).’

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

The House of Lords is not obliged to approve the Bill at all and may send it back to the Commons for revision. Today, thanks to the Parliament Acts, Her Majesty’s House of Lords cannot indefinitely block legislation:

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

‘Bills can be held up by the Lords if they disagree with them for about a year but ultimately the elected House of Commons can reintroduce them in the following session and pass them without the consent of the Lords.’

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Source: http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/parliamentacts/

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

In order to change the Law, proposed legislation must pass the whole of the above procedure.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

In the following example, the consequences of the vote were clearly stated. This is because this referendum was held only after the relevant legislation had passed all its Parliamentary stages. In other words the consequences of the result had already been approved by both Houses of Parliament and had received Royal Assent prior to the referendum.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Alternative Vote Referendum 2012.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

So let’s look at Section 8 of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, which triggered the referendum on the Alternative Vote in 2012. Source: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/1/contents/enacted/data.htm

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

‘(1)The Minister must make an order bringing into force section 9, Schedule 10 and Part 1 of Schedule 12 (“the alternative vote provisions”) if —

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

(a)more votes are cast in the referendum in favour of the answer “Yes” than in favour of the answer “No”,’ and ‘(2)If more votes are not cast in the referendum in favour of the answer “Yes” than in favour of the answer “No”, the Minister must make an order repealing the alternative vote provisions.’

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

The consequences of the referendum here are clearly stated. The legislation contains an instruction as to what the Government had to do after the vote was held. The Minister concerned was directed on one hand to enable the law if the result was a majority ‘Yes’. On the other, to repeal it if the result favoured ‘No’. The provisions under which he or she was to do so were likewise framed in the Act. (This referendum voted against.)

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

In other words, the relevant legislation had passed through all the debates, stages and approvals required for a Bill to become an Act (Law). Furthermore the consequences of either a favourable or otherwise result had also been discussed and written into law.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read
Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

The 1973 EEC Referendum.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Now let’s look at another referendum, the 1973 referendum regarding the UK’s accession to the EEC.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Like the one above, the relevant Act, the European Communities Act of 1972, had already gone through all its stages in Parliament and had received Royal Assent. It was the law. Source http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1972/68/section/1

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Indeed, the UK had already signed the Treaty of Accession which made it a part of the EEC. It was only because of protest that a referendum was held, but that referendum had no authority over Parliament. This was not made immediately obvious because the votes in the 1973 EEC referendum and also the 1975 one, preserved the status quo.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

In other words, the legal stature of these referendums was never tested. In fact they were technically ‘consultations’. They had no effect in law at all. But this was never made obvious, because the result of the votes was to leave things as they were. Parliament had already made the law by the proper Constitutional process.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

The Phony Referendum.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Now look at the enabling legislation for the 2016 European Referendum. This is the European Referendum Act of 2015, and the title alone should be making you wonder. Source http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/36/contents/enacted/data.htm

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Here is what it says:

Rod Fleming
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‘(1)A referendum is to be held on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union.

Rod Fleming
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(2)The Secretary of State must, by regulations, appoint the day on which the referendum is to be held.

Rod Fleming
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(3)The day appointed under subsection (2) —

Rod Fleming
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(a)must be no later than 31 December 2017,

Rod Fleming
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(b)must not be 5 May 2016, and

Rod Fleming
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©must not be 4 May 2017.

Rod Fleming
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(4)The question that is to appear on the ballot papers is —

Rod Fleming
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“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Rod Fleming
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(5)The alternative answers to that question that are to appear on the ballot papers are —

Rod Fleming
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“Remain a member of the European Union

Rod Fleming
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Leave the European Union”.’

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

That is it. It then gives the official wording in Welsh. There is no more substantive detail, the rest of the Act is all about procedure. It is the shortest Act of Parliament I have ever seen — and the most meaningless.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

There is not one word about what happens after the referendum. Not one.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read
Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Not Worth the Paper it’s Printed On.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

This Act, which went through all its Parliamentary stages easily, ONLY sets up a referendum. Its substantive section, above, does not refer to any other legislation. It does not place any burden upon Government to do anything at all, dependent on the result. It has no consequences.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Let me be quite blunt: constitutionally, this document is not worth the paper it is printed on. Its sole purpose was to hold a phony referendum with no Constitutional force.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

The phony referendum has been held in accordance with the Act and that, my friends, is that. Done and dusted. Time to move on. The ‘Brexit’ vote was meaningless. We can — and we should — forget about it.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Parliament is Sovereign.

Rod Fleming
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Only Parliament can decide to leave the EU. And before it did so, an appropriate Bill would have to be drafted and go through the procedure described above of Readings, Committee Stages and Reports in both Houses.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

In fact, Parliament has not discussed one line of any Bill that might be enacted and its consequences realised, as a result of the phony EU referendum.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Parliament could have debated and enacted a Bill that did provide for legislative change after a referendum. It is sovereign. But it did not. And I do not think that any such legislation would have sailed through. This is almost certainly why there are no legislative consequences in the 2015 Act. The people who framed the Draft Bill it must have known that to actually debate leaving Europe would have caused the most unholy row.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Cameron only wanted to defuse the Eurosceptic Tory MPs. So he gave them a phony referendum with no powers, probably hoping that it, like the previous two on Europe, would preserve the status quo and so its lack of legal substance would never be exposed.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Fast and Loose — Irresponsible, even.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

You may well wonder about a man who would play fast and loose with the futures of his own country and people in such a way. No wonder he left in a hurry. We sincerely hope that his reputation never recovers.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

I am shocked that we have politicians so ignorant of their own Constitutional responsibilities that they have not already challenged the current mass hysteria provoked by the verdict of this most spurious of referendums. It is a phony; it is literally inconsequential.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

I am gravely disappointed by my colleagues in the Media, that they have not gone through the simple exercise of downloading and reading the relevant legislation, which would prove, for once and for all, that the phony EU referendum was nothing more than a slick political device.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

For shame.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read
Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read

Originally published at Rod Fleming’s World.

Rod Fleming
Draft · 7 min read