Final dates! Join the tutor2u subject teams in London for a day of exam technique and revision at the cinema. Learn more

In the News

Why Brexit May Not Result in Brexit

Scott Thomas

16th June 2016

The Referendum next week is not the be all and end all, now this claim may be surprising to many, but as astute politics students will know, the referendum is not binding on parliament, as Parliament is supreme, and as such any withdrawal from the European Union will require the will of Parliament first.

In an article for the London Evening Standard, Anthony Hilton spells out exactly how this is the case.

Read Why we may remain even if we vote Leave

However I will summarise for you below:

Firstly, the results of the referendum matter, as does the turn out. If the final result of the referendum is a close one with a 51/49 split in favour of Brexit then the majority is not overwhelming. This is even more important when you add in the turnout figure. If the turnout is only 50% then that means only 25% of the voting population actually voted for Brexit. Definitely not a convincing majority there. This was seen in the Welsh Devolution Referendum in 1997 whereby 50% of the votes were in favour of devolution, on a 50% turnout. The same could happen in the EU Referendum.

Secondly, Parliament itself is a hurdle that Brexit would need to clear, withdrawal from the European Union would need to be initiated by an Act of Parliament. Acts of Parliament must pass the normal legislative process and are therefore subject to defeat in the Commons or the Lords. This is a very real possibility. There is no Brexit majority in Parliament. The overwhelming majority support Remain, which will make it difficult to pass this bill. The table below shows the figures based on research by Brian Reading showing the difficulty in passing a Brexit bill.

Note: SNP numbers include the 2 members currently without the SNP whip, and total numbers exclude Plaid Cymru and Northern Irish Parties

The question remains however whether MPs would abide by the Referendum result or decide that it is in the best interests of the UK to deny the bill passage and vote to stay. As Anthony Hilton points out this issue of Parliamentary Sovereignty is the great irony in the entire campaign, it could be Westminster, not Brussels that thwarts the dreams of the Brexiteers.

Scott Thomas

Scott is Subject Lead for History at Tutor2u, and works full time as a teacher of History. He has examined for Edexcel and holds a joint degree in History and Politics from Newcastle University

© 2002-2024 Tutor2u Limited. Company Reg no: 04489574. VAT reg no 816865400.