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Bonfire of the vanities

Let us be generous – maybe Tony Blair is right. Maybe technically he didn’t actually lie to Parliament and/or the British nation when he engineered the rubber-stamping of his decision to enter the 2003 Iraq War, riding shotgun to stagecoach driver George Bush as America embarked upon its ill-advised adventure.

But that doesn’t alter what will be forever enshrined as the public’s perception of what happened.

In the same manner, perhaps the legal advice just helpfully sent to the prime minister David Cameron – i.e. that the EU Referendum result is not legally binding and that the sovereignty of the UK lies with Parliament – may just be technically correct.

See here – as reported upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

However, Mr Cameron and those in the Establishment ought to think long and hard before acting upon this sort of intervention, for two principal reasons:


The consensus of analytical opinion has it that a large proportion of the 51.9% majority who voted in favour of Brexit  at the EU Referendum voted did so partly in order to register a protest at the failure of the political class to take full – or indeed any – account of their very-real concerns about immigration and other ‘difficult’ (perhaps sometimes non-PC) issues.

That is, of course, a huge generalisation. There were a whole range of factors that caused the Brexiteers to vote as they did.

But it’s definitely something to bear in mind. Some of them might not take kindly to a move to unpick what was a result reached under the rules as understood at the time.


However the sentence in The Guardian‘s report that concerns me most is the second:

“The letter describes the referendum result as only advisory because it was based upon ‘misrepresentations of fact and promises that could not be delivered’.”

For me this is a controversial, not to say, incendiary statement.

Without being a lawyer or knowing anything about which I’m talking, I can understand that there might be some element of UK constitutional law which de facto technically renders a referendum result ultimately inferior to – or indeed needing some sort of ratification by – a subsequent vote in the House of Commons before it can be followed and/or acted upon.

What I cannot accept is the proposition apparently being put forward by these 1,000 lawyers that ‘misrepresentations of fact and promises that could not be delivered’ in themselves effectively render the result of any national democratic vote (whether in a referendum or at a General Election) purely ‘advisory’.

That has got to be complete balderdash.

If it was actually the case, I doubt that the UK has had a legitimate government in place since about 1272, or possibly even earlier.


As hinted above, I would counsel Mr Cameron to be very wary of taking on board the advice contained in this lawyers’ letter. Happily, deep down, I think he has just about enough common sense not to do so.

If the British Establishment ever tried to circumvent or emasculate the EU Referendum result, there’d be a huge response from the Great Unwashed in the next available opportunity to express their disgust in a popular vote.

Either that, and/or a popular uprising and revolution. And if the latter transpired, I’d definitely volunteer to be part of an oldies suicide squad tasked with blowing up the Houses of Parliament.




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About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts