As a Moseley reader emailed earlier, the referendum is non-binding. The FT’s leader today expanded on this:
“A vote for Brexit will not be determinative of whether the UK will leave the EU. That potential outcome comes down to the political decisions which then follow before the Article 50 notification.
“The policy of the government (if not of all of its ministers) is to remain in the EU. The UK government may thereby seek to put off the Article 50 notification, regardless of political pressure and conventional wisdom.
The legal analysis and mechanics were outlined earlier in a blog by David Allen Green, a lawyer and writer born in Birmingham, who attended a school in Quinton and Halesowen College sixth-form and studied law at the University of Birmingham, after reading Modern History at Oxford.
In his FT blog, Green confirms that the referendum is advisory rather than mandatory:
“What happens next in the event of a vote to leave is therefore a matter of politics not law. It will come down to what is politically expedient and practicable.
- The UK government could seek to ignore such a vote; to explain it away and characterise it in terms that it has no credibility or binding effect (low turnout may be such an excuse).
- Or they could say it is now a matter for parliament, and then endeavour to win the parliamentary vote.
- Or ministers could try to re-negotiate another deal and put that to another referendum.
He adds: “There is, after all, a tradition of EU member states repeating referendums on EU-related matters until voters eventually vote the “right” way”.
What matters in law is when and whether the government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty
“This is the significant “red button”. Once the Article 50 process is commenced then Brexit does become a matter of law, and quite an urgent one. It would appear this process is (and is intended to be) irreversible and irrevocable once it starts. But invoking Article 50 is a legally distinct step from the referendum result — it is not an obligation”.
The UK would have two years to negotiate a deal after triggering the exit clause of the EU treaties; extending talks beyond that would require unanimous agreement of the EU’s member states.
And as Another Europe reminds us, “In the months ahead we will try to ensure that we lay the foundations for a better country . . . Another Europe is possible. Another Britain is necessary”.