Heading for Brexit?

Hold on, it may never happen

So on Thursday 23 June 2016 a majority of British voters chose the Brexit option. This unexpected result has caused major ripples across the globe.

The next step is for the UK prime minister to invoke Article 50, following which two years of negotiations take place and then Britain (or, more accurately, the United Kingdom – see the box below) leaves the EU unless there is unanimous agreement amongst the remaining states to extend exit negotiations.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is, as the name suggests, larger than Great Britain due to the inclusion of Northern Ireland (which happened in 1922, following independence of the Republic of Ireland, although the name was not changed until 1927). The following public domain Euler diagram shows more details:
The United Kingdom is the EU member state. Hence England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are part of the EU. Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are not part of the EU.

But is Britain really ready to exit?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people voted “Leave” as a protest vote, never imagining that a majority would vote for leave. Subsequent to the referendum result, more than 3 million people have signed an online petition calling for a second referendum.

The government is not legally obliged to invoke Article 50 on the basis of the referendum, which can be considered advisory.

A majority of MPs are “Remainers” and, in a vote in Parliament, would vote to remain in the EU. Lawyers have also said MPs must vote to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, under which the UK joined the EU.

Some lawyers have suggested that a change of this magnitude requires a two-thirds majority in a referendum.

There are numerous examples of misleading stories from proponents of both Leave and Remain, but particularly from Leave campaigners, that would likely change the minds of many people who voted to leave. For example, it is highly unlikely that an ex-EU Britain could join the single market without accepting the free movement of people.

Unless Britain invokes Article 50, the only other way that it could leave is if the rest of the EU invoked Article 7 – and that would be impossible under current circumstances. Article 7 requires a “serious and persistent breach” of the values of the EU that pose a severe threat to democracy such as the rise of fascism or human rights abuses. “Britain has done nothing to warrant it,” said Kenneth Armstrong, a professor of European law at Cambridge University.

So how could Britain remain in the UK?

Well, if your correspondent was Prime Minister, this is what I would do.

Firstly, I would engage with the remainder of the EU to create an outline agreement of how a UK-EU relationship might look after Brexit.

Then I would present this outline to the British people as a far better representation of a post-Brexit scenario.

I expect that this would generate quite a furore and protests about being misled by the Brexit campaign.

At this point I would suggest that a second referendum is required to confirm the results of the first, based on the better understanding of what Brexit really means.

I would anticipate that the second referendum would result in a “Remain” victory, with at least 55% of the votes, possibly much higher.


  1. Gordon Black says:


    Now Sir John Major becomes the second former prime minister to float the possibility that Brexit might not happen.

  2. Gordon Black says:

    Tony Blair believes that Brexit can be halted. “It can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain-gain cost-benefit analysis doesn’t stack up. And that can happen in one of two ways. I’m not saying it will [be stopped], by the way, but it could. I’m just saying: until you see what it means, how do you know?”


  3. TheVoice says:

    Update 2016/10/23 ….

    In today’s Autumn Statement (the Finance Minister’s key speech on the state of the country’s finances, mid-way between budget statements), UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (that’s British terminology for Finance Minister), Philip Hammond, revealed that, as a result of Brexit, he expects the UK borrowing costs to increase by GBP 122 bn over five years (elsewhere only GBP 60 bn of this is atttributed to Brexit) and that the forecast for the public finances to be back in surplus by the end of the decade has been abandoned.

    “In view of the uncertainty facing the economy, and in the face of slower growth forecasts, we no longer seek to deliver a surplus in 2019-20,” said Hammond.

    If the High Court ruling leads to a second referendum to convince members of parliament to vote to invoke article 50, these financial projections might alter the referendum result.

    This only further increases the probability that Brexit will never happen.

  4. TheVoice says:

    Update 2016/11/03 …

    British High Court rules that the British Government cannot unilaterally invoke article 50 to commence Brexit, but must consult Parliament.

    “Brexit could be STOPPED by Parliament after BOMBSHELL Article 50 ‘betrayal’ ruling” according to The Daily Express (a UK tabloid daily newspaper): http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/728328/Brexit-News-High-Court-judgement-Article-50-royal-prerogative-Theresa-May-EU-referendum

    The Telegraph, a UK broadsheet newspaper, suggests that British Prime Minster Theresa May might be forced to call a general election next year in order to ensure that there sufficient members of parliament to vote in favor of Brexit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/03/high-court-to-rule-on-brexit-legal-battle-and-theresa-mays-decis/

    What happens if MPs repeatedly vote to halt/cancel Brexit? There could be a constitutional crisis if the population feels that MPs are overruling the desire of the population as expressed in the referendum. There might be another referendum. Brexit might never happen.

  5. TheVoice says:

    Update 2016/09/21 …

    The online petition now has more than 4 million votes

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