Tag Archives: Referendum

The UK needs a Brexit Referendum not a Brexit Election

by Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

11th September 2019

Parliamentary opponents of Brexit, and in particular opponents of “no deal”, are understandably encouraged by the passing of legislation designed to prevent the Johnson government from taking the UK out of the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement on 31st October. It would be going too far, however, to assume that a “no deal” Brexit has been definitively averted. The majority of MPs publicly or privately opposing Brexit should be giving urgent thought  on how to consolidate their advantage when Parliament reassembles in mid-October. It is obvious  that Johnson and his advisers will be actively seeking ways of thwarting the Parliamentary legislation, even including a simple refusal to obey the clear provisions of the law itself.

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Brexit: A “meaningful” vote for MPs implies a “meaningful” vote for the people

by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

18th May 2018


The Conservative Cabinet has spent the past month in public controversy about the customs regime to be applied on the island of Ireland after Brexit. It is widely recognised that neither of the two favoured solutions canvassed within the Cabinet, a “customs partnership” and “maximum facilitation”, is acceptable to the European Union. Less widely understood has been the fact that this purely British debate ignores entirely the much more urgent Irish issue, namely the finding of an acceptable text for the “backstop” guarantee sought by the Irish government that intra-Irish trade (and broader social exchanges) will in all circumstances continue to flow freely after Brexit. Even full British participation in a Customs Union with the EU would not be sufficient to guarantee this freedom. The Irish government rightly points out that substantial elements of the European internal market would need to be retained in Northern Ireland as well, a reality for which the British government appears as yet wholly unprepared. Continue reading Brexit: A “meaningful” vote for MPs implies a “meaningful” vote for the people

“When we have decided what you voted for, we will tell you.”



by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust


It used to be claimed during the Cold War that in the countries of the Soviet bloc elections could not take place until the government had decided what their result should be. Here, we order these matters differently. We had a referendum on 23rd June about the European Union, but the government has still to decide what its result will be. The widely-advertised “brain-storming session” of Mrs May on 31st August has taken us little further in the search for content to fill out the empty assertion that “Brexit means Brexit.”  The only specific matter upon which Mrs May and her colleagues could apparently agree was their hostility to the principle of European free movement. This is not an encouraging basis on which to erect a negotiating strategy for the “sensible and orderly departure” of the United Kingdom from the EU that Mrs May says she seeks. Continue reading “When we have decided what you voted for, we will tell you.”

Sovereignty – in whose hands and for what?


by Monica Threlfall (writing in a personal capacity), Reader in European Politics, London Metropolitan University


The Leave people are always saying they want “our sovereignty back“. But for what purpose? What is this sovereignty and for whom is it supposed to work? Not for ordinary people. Sovereignty is a concept that power-lovers cling to when they fantasize they might get more power thereby. What is the point of ‘sovereignty’ if a post-exit sovereign government abolishes the obligation not to discriminate against women or minorities (as a right-wing US state is now trying to do), removes most health and safety precautions at work, or allows companies to sack workers when they take over firms or privatised services? More workplace accidents and deaths are the cost of sovereignty in the wrong hands. Today EU member states are enjoying a steady decline in morbidity at work ever since joint laws were adopted, and the UK had to adhere to them too. Britain was performing well until Conservative-led governments started to find corners to cut despite the laws. Yet the Leave campaign is full of people who seethe over such protections – even Cameron launched his referendum vowing to get an opt-out from the Working Time Directive so that employers could lengthen working hours, cut holidays, paternal and parental leave, and more. But the member states said no to him over that, so we remain protected while we remain in the EU. Continue reading Sovereignty – in whose hands and for what?

How Future UK European Referendums Might Happen

tim oliver

by Dr Tim Oliver, Dahrendorf Fellow on Europe-North America Relations, LSE Ideas


Further referendums on Britain’s European question could happen whatever the result of June’s vote. In a recent report for the Federal Trust, Why the EU Referendum Will Not be the End of the Story, Dr Tim Oliver set out how the forthcoming referendum will not settle the European question and mapped out the different ways in which future referendums might come to pass.

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