The Brexit referendum: a constitutional crisis.

The Brexit vote has left us with a constitutional crisis. We now have a lame-duck government which was elected on a manifesto that is now irrelevant. The government is led by a Prime Minister who does not even have the support of his own party.

Cameron confused

The opposition is similarly riven by its own failure of leadership in the referendum campaign. The political party that is claiming the victory has almost no representation in Parliament.


The way out of this impossible situation is to hold an immediate election. The House of Commons needs to pass the necessary legislation to call an election. The election campaign would be fought on the question of how we leave Europe. (This should have been at the heart of last year’s election. This crisis has resulted from the failure of politicians to ask the right questions of the voters in 2015.) An election will give UKIP the opportunity Nigel Farage seeks. If they secure seats in Parliament, they will be able to take part in the complex negotiations that will be necessary to ensure an orderly Brexit.

Nigel Farage

The snap election will allow the pro-Brexit candidates to articulate their vision of how Britain could extricate itself from Europe. They will be able to explain precisely how they will negotiate the exit, what they will do to alleviate the immediate crises in employment, banking, trade, industry, agriculture, law and taxation. They will also be able to present their plans for dealing with the risks of Brexit leading to an existential crisis for the United Kingdom, and to outline policies for reducing immigration: candidates can detail their ideas of how an Australian-style points-based system will work, and how a post-EU England will be able to keep illegal migrants out.

It is possible that a pro-Europe party might campaign on the basis of remaining in Europe. If such a party, or alliance of parties, were to win the election they would have been empowered to vote down the result of the referendum in Parliament. David Lammy has already articulated this point. After all, the referendum itself does not create law, it only mandates parliament to discuss and vote on an issue. This goes to the heart of the current crisis. In a parliamentary democracy, a referendum is a dangerous tool: a simple question will lead to simplistic policy decisions. I can illustrate this point by considering the online petition of a few months ago seeking to ban Donald Trump from entering the UK. This was a straightforward question that seemed to have some appeal for those who support the ideals of liberal, inclusive Western democracy, but once the question was discussed on the floor of the House of Commons, the practical absurdity of the petition was exposed and the petition was rejected.

It may be that a snap election would lead to the election of a strongly supported Brexit party. So be it. Their leader would have a clear mandate, not just for a vague idea of leaving Europe, but also a mandate for set of policies to implement Brexit. At least then it would be possible to start sensible divorce negotiations with Europe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *