I differ slightly from many fellow Remainers in that I do not believe the result of last month’s referendum is deemed illegitimate because the winning side has now been shown to have engaged in outright lying. Although I think the UK should have a referendum watchdog as it does for advertising (and as nearly all democracies have), the fact is the Remain side had the air time to explain the lies and the people still opted on the basis of all the information, albeit marginally, to leave the EU. Let us all respect that decision.
Nevertheless, I do agree with my fellow Remainers and indeed many Leavers that the terms of the UK’s exit must be put back to consultation with the people. That is why Article 50 must not (and, in my view, probably will not) be invoked, because that creates an ugly two-year countdown during which terms would be dictated to the UK rather than agreed with it.
The more obvious way for the UK to leave the EU is to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which gives effect to EU Law in the UK. This is the one which requires legislative consent in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but to be clear withholding that consent has the practical political effect only of retaining EU Law in relation to devolved issues; it would no longer apply in England at all, nor for any reserved matters, and the UK would now be in breach of EU membership terms (thus in effect ceasing to be a member state).
Of course, this repeal should only take place once the UK has its future relationship with the Single Market and other prospective trade deals beyond the EU clearly established. The “Department for Brexit”, as proposed by one potential Prime Minister, would oversee all of this work and, in principle, once it had reached a satisfactory conclusion in the view of the UK Government, the majority in Parliament commanded by that Government would vote to repeal the European Communities Act.
Of course, by its very nature, all of these negotiations (which include not just the rest of the EU) will take some time, surely at least until the next scheduled General Election. It would make democratic sense for that election to be fought between a Conservative Government ready to repeal the European Communities Act on the basis of the work done by the Department for Brexit; UKIP ready to repeal it on the basis of keeping foreigners out and trashing the UK’s economic prospects; and a Progressive Coalition of LibDems, Greens and a new-SDP candidates standing on a common platform committed not to repealing the European Communities Act at all and remanding in the EU. Alternatively, the deal could simply be put back to referendum.
Thus would be satisfied the respect for the democratic legitimacy of last month’s referendum but also the respect for the democratic right of the people to make a determination once the terms of leaving the EU are clear. Is there anyone outside UKIP who would have a serious problem with any of that?!