Politicians can't ignore referendum result without 'a snap election' or EU concessions, says QC

Politicians can't ignore referendum result because without a 'snap election', says QC

A barrister tells Paul Ross how the EU Leave decision would be hard to reverse

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jo Maugham QC has explained how a second referendum on the UK's membership in the EU isn't likely – but there may be other ways to reverse the decision. 

This follows an online petition to call a second vote receiving millions of signatures online. Numerous calls have been made based on the immediate aftermath of the Leave vote, which saw billions of pounds wiped of the market and numerous resignations in the Conservative and Labour parties. 

Despite the fallout, Jo Maugham, who works as a barrister for Devereux Chambers, told listeners "the fact people are unhappy" isn't a deciding factor for MPs.

"The petition has three-and-a-half million signatures," he said to Paul Ross. "If it gets to ten million or more, then it becomes a live political issue. 

"But the fact people are unhappy with the result does not provide a mandate for politicians to ignore the outcome [of the referendum]

"I say this as someone who thinks the decision to exit the EU is a profoundly damaging one we will regret for decades to come."

Maugham explained the scenarios that might lead to the referendum results being disregarded.

"The referendum vote is advisory – it doesn't compel anybody to exit the EU as a matter of law," he explained to Paul Ross. "But democratically, for Parliament to ignore it would be extraordinary. 

"The question is a political one – can politicians justify to the electorate the decision not to exit the EU?

"There are two ways in which this can be done – one is if there were to be a snap general election, with one side campaigning on an explicitly Remain ticket. You might think a side winning on a Remain ticket had a refreshed democratic mandate, and so could ignore the referendum result.

"The other is if the EU comes back to the UK with a revised offer, and if there were, you might think, given the profound change, that the revised offer could be put to the electorate again."

Numerous criticisms have been made of the key leaders of the Leave campaign, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, for not being prepared in the event that the UK voted to leave the European Union. Maugham explained how this view has been vindicated in the aftermath of the vote.

"They [Gove and Johnson] do not have a plan," he added. "Markets are being hit very hard, investment decisions are being delayed – this will hit jobs and growth. 

"Affected growth will impact the government's ability to fund hospitals and schools – this is not project Fear, this is actually reality, which is happening on the ground. 

"People will see this in their employability, the strength of the employment and housing market is going to decline."