The term “Will of the People” has been wielded as the mandate necessary to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it’s a strong patriotic phrase which would incite strong emotions if it wasn’t used so willfully by so many in government and news media, to justify their Brexit plans. It is often cited by the left wing that the 17.4 Million voters or 52% that voted in favour of leaving the European Union only represent something closer to 1/3 of eligible voters, or 1/4 of the total UK population and that therefore justifies nullifying the result or at least having a second referendum with better defined win conditions for the leave campaign instead of a simple majority.
However, the fact of the matter is that because these conditions weren’t in place from the off it only hurts your case and makes you look like a bad sport by calling for these now and more should have done when Parliament was debating the European Union Referendum Act 2015 in the first place, but hindsight is 20/20 after all.
I do, however, prefer to take into account something different once you’ve accepted that the UK will leave the European Union, the difference between justification between soft and hard Brexit and where the “will of the people” and the powers of government falls with that. While 17.4 Million people did vote to leave the European Union, by no measure did the referendum question or choices hint at what a post-EU relationship would look like, after all, that wasn’t David Cameron’s plan, he had no inclination on what would happen if his gamble failed because no one was expecting it, many leave supporters believed the referendum would be rigged right up to the point they had actually won, leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces after he resigned first as Prime Minister, and then later as MP last year.
And it’s the vagueness of what the 52% want, that’s left politicians torn, by voting against the Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) bill 2016-17, this has given pro-hard Brexit politicians and groups such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express ammunition to accuse people of being against Brexit, when in reality these politicians are seeking assurances to things such as the Single Market, the Custom Union, Freedom of Movement, residence status of EU citizens post-Brexit, that people within the 52% may in fact support.
Meanwhile many MP’s that voted in favour of the bill have been confronted by those thinking that they’re trying to give the Prime Minister a blank cheque in negotiations with the European Union, when in most cases they voted with that their particular constituents voted for, as the bill was designed not to cover the terms of negotiations and simply trigger Article 50.
So, do you believe that 52% of people ticking “Leave the European Union” was enough for the government to try and decide for itself what that meant, without the oversight of the judiciary, the House of Commons, the House of Lords or select committees?