Posts Tagged ‘UK BREXIT’

Theresa May to fight leadership challenge – live

UKIP Saved

UKIP Saved

I saw an article on UKIP Daily last week entitled ‘Saving UKIP’. I don’t know if the author has noticed but UKIP has already been saved. I have been responsible for that with the help of the vast majority of our loyal members.

On 17th February 2018 the EGM in Birmingham appointed me as the Interim Leader, and on 14th April I was elected unopposed as Leader for a twelve-month term. That term ends on 13th April 2019.

I took on the role for one reason only – because I could not stand idly by and watch the Party disappear. UKIP had been brought to the edge of destruction by the previous collective leadership. We were about four to six weeks away from insolvency and forced closure. No one else wanted the job of Interim Leader, and I felt I had no option but to volunteer.

Remember where we were just ten months ago. Membership and income were falling through the floor. We inherited massive debts dating back to the time of Nigel Farage’s leadership. We faced a massive legal bill because of serious errors of judgement by a previous chairman and treasurer. We had a complete lack of credibility with the public and the media. I was shocked at how Party structures had been allowed to decay over the previous two years.

When I took over as Leader I did not know if the Party could be saved or not. The first few weeks were extremely stressful as I worked with the new Chairman and Treasurer to address priority number one, which was to raise money. I have said before how the ordinary members responded to my request for £100,000 by donating £300,000. Their generosity gave us the breathing space we needed to survive.

Ten months later, where are we? I must be doing something right because membership has risen from a low point of about 18,000 to 26,500 as of yesterday, and it is rising daily. This level of membership gives us an income sufficient to pay for the Party’s current administration needs with a moderate surplus.

A couple of weeks ago, on my instructions, we accomplished something that every previous leader had failed to do: we introduced the option of a direct debit low cost monthly membership fee of £4 – less than the price of a point of beer. That is bringing in many more members.

In addition, I revitalised the Patrons Club, which had more or less ceased to exist. It now produces an income which is can be spent on special projects. I have now raised enough money to pay the salaries of a full-time Chairman, Treasurer, and Press Officer. My next priority is to raise money to pay for a full-time Elections Campaign Manager.

I worked relentlessly during August and early September to ensure that we had a new Interim Manifesto ready for the Party Conference on 21st September. That conference was perhaps the most successful UKIP has ever had and the new manifesto received overwhelming approval of the members.

Why then in recent days am I coming under attack from outside, and from a few inside, the Party? The reason being used is that it is because I have appointed Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) as personal advisor (unpaid and unofficial).

I am not going to dwell on the Tommy Robinson issue because the NEC decided that any consideration of his possible membership of the Party cannot happen until after the end of March 2019, and as I proposed, that would have to be subject to a vote of the entire membership. I am entirely happy with this outcome.

New members have been joining for a variety of reasons: Mrs May’s incompetence and her betrayal of Brexit, because they have seen me on national TV and radio promoting unilateral exit from the EU, and because the Party has regained credibility among those who want a genuine exit from the EU.

We have lost a number of people from UKIP I admit. Nigel Farage is the most high-profile. In my opinion Nigel left the party in spirit after the Referendum and has been waiting for a reason to go physically. He has found one now, but if it was not one thing it would have been another.

Now he thinks that the UK may possibly take part in the next European Elections next year and he wants to form a new party to fight them without the inconvenience of a democratic political structure behind it. Such a party could inevitably split the genuinely pro-Brexit vote.

This brings us on to the UKIP MEPs. A number had left long before I became Leader, and more have left since, some in the last week. Some I like and respect and I am sorry to see them go. Others have never fulfilled their commitment to the Party to donate 10% of their take home salary to the Party.

Not one of the MEPs who has resigned from UKIP have observed their 2013 Charter obligation to hand the seat back to UKIP should they resign from the Party for any reason. You can make up your own mind about their honour and integrity.

At the Conference last September, I said that I wanted to make UKIP a genuinely populist party – a party whose policies are popular with a very large section of the electorate. I want UKIP to represent ordinary patriotic people – from all classes. I always felt that some in UKIP, especially some at the top, just wanted to use the Party as a political stick with which to beat the Tories. Once the Referendum was won, they wanted UKIP to fold and die.

You may or may not agree with everything I have done. But it has all been done in good faith in order to preserve and promote the Party and the cause we represent.  I have fulfilled the three main objectives I set myself in February: I have saved the Party financially, significantly raised membership, and pointed us in the right direction politically.

UKIP is the only Party that genuinely wants the UK to leave the EU. We are in a desperate struggle to promote that outcome, and it may take years yet to make it happen. We are in a political war, and we have to find allies who are willing and able to assist us. UKIP’s activists, members, supporters and voters understand that we are facing a betrayal of our country by our political class that is unparalleled in our history. Fighting that betrayal will not be an easy path to take.

I have no personal political ambition. I am not an egotist. Leadership is a burden and a grave responsibility. Uppermost in my mind for the last ten months has been fulfilling the trust of our ordinary rank and file members, and that when I stand down, I will leave the Party stronger than I found it.

In the New Year I will consider my options and decide what to do. In the meantime, I wish everyone, my supporters and detractors, a very Happy Christmas.

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News review – Wednesday 12 December 2018

News review – Wednesday 12 December 2018

BREAKING NEWS BREAKING NEWS 

Theresa May

ITV News
The threshold needed to trigger a vote of no-confidence in Theresa May has been exceeded after more than 48 Conservative MPs submitted letters to Sir Graham Brady. ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said it was possible the no-confidence vote could be held on Wednesday. It follows reports of a wave of new letters amid anger at the way Mrs May dramatically put on hold the crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal after admitting she was heading for a heavy defeat.

Sky News
Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence

Full statement from Sir Graham Brady:

The chairman of the backbench 1922 committee of Conservative MPs said: “The threshold of 15% of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party has been exceeded.  “In accordance with the rules, a ballot will be held between 1800 and 2000 on Wednesday 12th December in committee room 14 of the House of Commons.  “The votes will be counted immediately afterwards and an announcement will be made as soon as possible in the evening.  “Arrangements for the announcement will be released later today. 

WTO trade

Times
Theresa May will be put under pressure at her cabinet meeting today to start planning for a no-deal Brexit, with ministers around the table expecting a vote on her future to be called within hours. Cabinet members are set to push the prime minister to step up preparations for a hard Brexit as some claim that she has repeatedly stalled spending decisions to prepare for such an outcome. Mrs May faces intense speculation about her future after her decision on Monday to pull the vote on her Brexit deal to seek last-minute improvements from the EU.

Conservative leadership

Mirror
Theresa May has been plunged into crisis over Brexit – with speculation mounting that she could be ousted. Potential candidates for the leadership have begun setting out their stalls even while the Prime Minister is in office. And after she was forced to pull a Commons vote on her Brexit deal, she is looking more vulnerable than ever. A leadership contest can be forced in two ways – either Mrs May quits, or she’s challenged. If she resigns, candidates will put themselves forward. Tory MPs whittle them down one at a time to just two people, in votes each Tuesday and Thursday. Then the final two will go head to head in a vote by the Tories’ 100,000-or-so members. If she’s challenged, it’s a lot harder for a leadership contest to happen.

Times
Sajid Javid has touted his commitment to social mobility and Boris Johnson has compared his weight loss to the Brexit preparations as contenders to succeed Theresa May prepare their pitches for the top job. The home secretary and the former foreign secretary have used The Spectator to set out their views on Brexit and their party’s future, a decision which will doubtless be interpreted as preparation for a leadership contest. Mr Javid, seen in Westminster as the favourite among ministers to succeed Mrs May, told the magazine that the Conservative Party stood, in a word, for opportunity.

Mail
The beauty contest for the Tory leadership should Theresa May be forced from office began in earnest last night. Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid both appeared in the Tory-supporting Spectator magazine to make highly personal interventions as they vie for the top job. Their move comes as Mrs May faces the prospect of a no confidence vote in her leadership as early as this morning. The former foreign secretary used a column in the Spectator to open up about his recent weight loss – an intervention which is widely seen as laying the ground for a leadership bid.

Brexit

Express
SENIOR Tories last night called for Britain’s £39billion EU divorce fee to be cancelled after Brussels chiefs rejected Theresa May’s plea for a better Brexit deal. Eurosceptic MPs were furious when European Commission chief Jean–Claude Juncker insisted: “There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation.” The top Eurocrat’s rebuff was delivered as the Prime Minister came up against a wall of resistance on a whistlestop European tour seeking to win fresh concessions to assuage MPs blocking her deal. Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, responding to the intransigence from Brussels, said: “If there is no room for renegotiation then we leave without a deal and do not pay the EU £39billion.”

Times
Theresa May’s pleas for changes to the Brexit divorce deal were publicly rejected by Europe’s leaders on her tour of continental capitals yesterday. The prime minister was rebuffed by German, Irish and Portuguese leaders as well as the EU’s two most senior officials after crisis talks in Brussels that were held before a critical European summit tomorrow. Mrs May dashed to The Hague for breakfast with Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister. Last Friday he had said that the deal on the table was “the bottom of the can. You really do not get anything better.”

Mirror
Theresa May’s frantic tour of European capitals ended in fresh humiliation tonight after the EU bluntly dismissed her call for more Brexit concessions. The Prime Minister begged EU leaders to bail her out of a mounting crisis as she desperately tried to win changes to her Brexit deal to buy off Tory rebels. It came amid frenzied speculation at Westminster that Mrs May faces a fresh bid from Brexiteers to oust her from Number 10. Senior Tory sources claimed that the 48 letters needed to kick off a no confidence vote in the PM had been reached – putting her premiership in jeopardy. EU president Jean-Claude Juncker dealt a heavy blow to the PM’s plans when he said there was “no room whatsoever” for re-opening talks.

Mail
Theresa May today pleaded with EU leaders for reassurances the controversial Irish backstop will only be temporary as she desperately tries to salvage her Brexit deal.  The PM embarked on a whirlwind tour of Europe today as she begged her fellow leaders to make major changes to the deal so she can buy off her Tory rebels. She met Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte for breakfast in the Hague, and held crucial talks with Angela Merkel in Berlin and later held talks with Donald Tusk. And she will later meet with Jean-Claude Juncker later today as they desperately try to find a way through the mounting crisis.
But she received a distinctly cool response from EU leaders who warned there is ‘no way’ the Withdrawal agreement can be changed. 

Independent
There is “no room whatsoever” to renegotiate the Brexit deal, the president of the European Commission has said, ahead of Theresa May’s trip to Brussels to seek concessions.  Speaking in the European Parliament on Tuesday Jean-Claude Juncker said re-opening the withdrawal agreement “will not happen”. He said the best the prime minister could hope for was “further clarity and further interpretations without reopening the withdrawal agreement” when she meets EU leaders in Brussels this week. Ms May is desperate to gain concessions from the EU on the deal she struck last month after it was given an overwhelmingly hostile reception by MPs.

Guardian
Jean-Claude Juncker has said there is “no room whatsoever” for renegotiating the Brexit deal as Theresa May returns to Brussels in an attempt to reopen talks. The prime minister embarked on a frantic round ofdiplomacy with other EU leaders on Tuesday to try to salvage some concessions, but the European commission president reiterated that Brussels would not revisit the withdrawal agreement. 
Junker offered May only additional “clarifications and interpretations” of the contentious backstop solution, designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Times
Theresa May will meet Leo Varadkar in Dublin today as the British prime minister continues her charm offensive against European Union leaders in an effort to break the Brexit deadlock. Her plea for changes to Britain’s Brexit divorce deal was rejected by European leaders yesterday during her tour of continental capitals. Mrs May has been repeatedly rebuffed before a European summit tomorrow by German and Portuguese leaders as well as the EU’s two most senior officials after crisis talks in Brussels. In the Dáil, the taoiseach gave a sense of the message he is expected to deliver to Mrs May.

Sun
BRUSSELS is set to pile the pressure on Theresa May to switch tack to a softer Brexit in return for greater assurances on the backstop. Euro Mps will push for the UK to accept a Norway-style trading relationship as the best way to avoid the hated border solution ever coming into force. Their demand came as eurocrats and EU leaders told the PM in no uncertain terms they will never reopen the terms of the backstop. German MEP Manfred Weber, who is in the running to be the next Commission president, said he would push for a “Norway Plus” deal to unblock talks. He said: “We can clarify again that hopefully the backstop will not be needed in the future.

Second referendum

Mail
Liam Fox hinted at the prospect of a new referendum on Brexit today as he warned campaigners any poll would not have Remain on the current terms on the ballot. The International Trade Secretary risked irritating No 10 by accepting the possibility of a new vote despite Theresa May repeatedly ruling it out. Mr Fox accused campaigners demanding a vote of seeking to re-run the 2016 referendum to get the ‘right’ result. And he said ‘any further referendum’ would not have the ‘status quo’ on offer because the EU was constantly evolving to ‘ever closer union’. Mr Fox also warned campaigners there was not enough time to deliver a referendum before exit day on March 29, 2019, in a piece for the Telegraph today.

Scotland

Mail
The SNP today vowed to to put down there own confidence motion to bring try and topple Theresa May if Jeremy Corbyn refuses to by the end of the day. Nicola Sturgeon said that if this vote does not succeed in forcing a general election, she wanted Labour to go on to support a second referendum. And Ian Blackford, the party’s leader in Westminster, repeated the threat, as he appeared next to the Lib Dems, Greens and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cym
ru. The parties have all written to the Labour leader to demand that he calls the crunch vote in Mrs May. 

Times
Labour has not costed any of the alternative policies it has proposed for today’s Scottish budget. Derek Mackay, the finance secretary, will unveil his draft budget with no clear sign of where he will find the required support from opposition parties to pass the document in the new year. Labour has produced a video summarising its pre-budget demands, which include increased funding for councils; a £5 per week increase in child benefit; a freeze on rail fares; a women’s health fund; £10 million for discretionary housing payments; and a £20million community policing fund. Last year the party set out a fully costed alternative to the Scottish government’s offer but sources told The Times that would not be repeated this year.

Bercow

Mail (by Andrew Pierce)
On Monday, as he left the Commons after Theresa May‘s humiliating climbdown over the Brexit withdrawal deal, Jeremy Corbyn stopped by the Speaker’s chair. To the astonishment of several onlookers, the Labour leader addressed its beaming occupant, John Bercow. ‘Thank you for all your help,’ he said. The gushing praise confirmed the Tories’ worst fears: Bercow has abandoned all pretence of impartiality and is manipulating Commons procedures to undermine the Government on Brexit at every possible turn. Minutes earlier, Bercow had accused Mrs May of being ‘deeply discourteous’ in pulling the ‘meaningful’ vote on the Government’s deal scheduled for that evening. In an extraordinary reprimand directed at the PM, the Speaker urged ministers to put the decision to delay it to an MPs’ vote.

France

Telegraph
Emmanuel Macron’s bid to buy off France’s “gilets jaunes” protesters with instant budget handouts threatens to blast through eurozone’s fiscal limits, fatally damaging his credibility as the champion of the European project and the guardian of French public accounts. The package of short-term measures announced in a theatrical mea culpa on Monday night leaves President Macron’s putative “grand bargain” with Germany in tatters. He had pledged root-and-branch reform of the French economy and a restoration of spending discipline after 11 years in breach of the EU’s Stability Pact. The calculation was that Berlin would in return drop its long-standing opposition to fiscal union and shared liabilities.

Mail
Yellow Vest protesters demanded even more concessions from Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday even after he caved in to their demands for more pay and lower taxes with a £9billion spending splurge on Monday night. Thomas Miralles, a Yellow Vest spokesman in the southern Pyrenees-Orientales department, said Macron had failed to listen to protesters and vowed to come to Paris this Saturday for his first demonstration in the capital. Meanwhile thousands of students angered by Macron’s education reforms joined the Yellow Vests on the streets for a ‘black Tuesday’ of unrest, further complicating matters for the French President.

Times
President Macron’s €10 billion hand-out appears to have bought him respite from a month of violent protests, but at the cost of busting his budget and shattering his credibility in Europe. The government confirmed that the financial measures offered by Mr Macron in a television address on Monday night, including a €100-a-week rise in the minimum wage, would knock a hole in the 2019 budget and “temporarily” breach the EU’s deficit ceiling of 3 per cent of national income. The European Commission said it would be keeping a close eye on France, a humiliating statement in the light of Mr Macron’s previous pride in returning to fiscal rigour.

NHS

Mail
The NHS‘s lack of cyber security is ‘alarming’, experts have warned after they discovered huge gaps in spending and training across the health service. Too few experts could put the NHS at risk of another cyber attack like last year’s £92million WannaCry disaster in which 20,000 hospital appointments were cancelled. Spending on cyber security varies wildly between hospital trusts around the country, with some spending as little as £238 and others £78,000. 
On average the health service employs just one qualified cyber security expert for every 2,582 employees, and a quarter of trusts don’t have any at all.

Military

Times
Britain must shift away from a peacetime mentality and embrace the innovation associated with wartime to combat rapid technological change and an array of national threats, the head of the military has said. General Sir Nick Carter, 59, warned last night that instability was the defining condition of the age and threats were “diversifying, proliferating and intensifying very rapidly”. In his first lecture as chief of the defence staff at the Royal United Services Institute, he said that, alongside threats posed by Russia, China, Iran and terrorist networks such as Islamic State, population change heralded trouble. Mass migration was “arguably an existential threat to Europe” compounded by populism and nationalism, which had a “bellicose nature”, he said.

Wages

Times
Wages grew at their fastest pace in a decade in the three months to October and the number of people in work has reached a record high, official figures show. Regular pay, excluding bonuses, grew by an average of 3.3 per cent in the period, up from 3.2 per cent in the three months to September, according to the Office for National Statistics. After adjusting for inflation, regular wages grew 1 per cent in the October period, a level not reached since the final quarter of 2016. Wages have been growing faster than inflation for nine months. After a decade of wage stagnation analysts said that the tightness of the labour market was beginning to cause sustained pay growth.

Cancer

Times
Thousands of men with suspected prostate cancer will avoid invasive biopsies after the treatments watchdog ruled that they must first be offered MRI scans. Experts say that the guidance could allow up to 40 per cent of men who need a diagnosis to avoid a biopsy, which is potentially painful and has unpleasant side-effects. The ruling from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is the first formal recommendation for the technology in any country. While many hospitals offer multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) as a first-line test for men, 50 per cent of patients miss out, according to the charity Prostate Cancer UK. 
About 130 new prostate cancer cases are diagnosed daily in the UK.

Fracking

Times
Cuadrilla has been forced to pause fracking after the strongest earthquake to date caused by its operations was felt over a wide area. A 1.5 magnitude tremor happened at about 11.20am yesterday after several smaller tremors earlier in the day. It was the biggest of more than 30 tremors caused by Cuadrilla since it began fracking at Preston New Road, Lancashire, in October. Under the government’s “traffic light” system, designed to prevent more serious earthquakes, the company has to stop fracking for 18 hours after a tremor of more than 0.5. It was the second tremor to be felt at the surface, following a previous one of 1.1 magnitude on October 29, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Rail travel

Telegraph
If all had gone to plan, the first paying passengers to travel through Crossrail’s 13-mile tunnels, 40 metres beneath the streets of central London, would have been climbing aboard this month.   The ambitious scheme, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Europe, is projected to add £42bn to the economy and bring 1.5m extra people within a 45-minute commute to central London. But on Monday, after a series of delays and setbacks, authorities confirmed it is likely to run billions of pounds over budget and they can no longer say with any confidence when it will be ready to open.

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May faces vote of confidence as Brexit critics pounce

Tory Eurosceptics launch coup to seize control of the final stages of Brexit

Second Referendum: what question to ask and when to do it?

The current position in the UK with regard to Brexit is said to be a constitutional crisis. In this blog, Andrea Biondi and Maria Kendrick (KCL) consider two of the most fundamental issues (the others being informatively discussed by the Constitution Unit) affecting the legal viability of holding such a referendum: the question and the timescale.

The Withdrawal Agreement was due to be voted on in the House of Commons on 11 December 2018, in accordance with sections 11 and 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Just a day before the proposed vote, the European Court of Justice held in C-621/18 Wightman and Others v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that Article 50 TEU allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU. A revocation will be possible until such time as a withdrawal agreement has entered into force, provided that the revocation has been decided upon in accordance with the Member State’s constitutional requirements and is formally notified to the European Council. This must however also be done within the two-year time frame stipulated in that Article, unless this period is extended. Back in Westminster the current political situation indicated that the Withdrawal Agreement was not likely to receive the requisite number of votes to pass by a majority of the House. The vote has therefore been postponed, whilst the Prime Minister seeks ‘additional reassurances’ from the EU on the question of the Northern Irish backstop. Although a vote is required under sections 11 and 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 at some point in the future, likely January 2019, there is currently no sign of abatement of the political impasse in the House of Commons. It is suggested that one way to breach the political logjam in Parliament would be to hold another referendum.

A UK ‘constitutional requirement’: the Question(s)

The question(s) to be posed in a second referendum are entirely to be decided by the UK. This is not an EU competence. By analogy, Article 48 TEU provides that any Treaty revision (except those adopted through a simplified procedure) ‘shall enter into force after being ratified by all Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements’ and of course Article 50 TEU reiterates that the Member States’ decision to withdraw is in accordance with those requirements which are internal to the constitution of the Member State in question.

In a second referendum scenario, what is essentially proposed is either a replication of the question posed in the first referendum, held in June 2016, or a three-way ballot between: no deal; the Withdrawal Agreement; and remaining a member of the EU. This idea of a “preferendum” has been mooted, in which voters could choose from these three options in order of voter preference. The three-way ballot would work on the basis that each voter receives two votes, so if their first-choice option gets the fewest number of votes and is unsuccessful, then they would still have a vote on which of the other two remaining options they would prefer. This proposal is said to be based on the voting system for regional mayoral elections.

The issues here are twofold. First, the “preferendum” option may fall foul of the so-called Condorcet paradox, whereby the reliance upon the voter second preference means that the electorate ends up voting for something that they did not really want. Arguably, in order to avoid this, a two-stage referendum procedure could be utilised, such as that held in New Zealand in 1992 on electoral reforms. Following this procedure, the first stage would ask voters whether they still wished to leave the European Union. If they did not, no second stage would be necessary. If they did, they could be offered a choice of whether to leave without a deal, or whether to leave on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement. This second stage could perhaps be held a week later than the first, and would provide an outcome which would give Parliament an indication of how to proceed. However, central to holding another referendum is the matter of legitimacy. Is it crucial that any further referendums on the matter of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU are seen to be legitimate by the public in the UK, as well as in the EU, our negotiating partners, and internationally, by our potential future trading partners. Another referendum would, therefore, need to be run on the basis of the franchise, campaign rules, etc as the first. This raises the second issue of whether to put the ‘no deal’ option on the ballot paper.

The House of Commons displays no majority for a ‘no-deal’ scenario, and would presumably, therefore, prefer for this not to be an option. Were this option to be excluded however, the outstanding options would presumably be the proposed Withdrawal Agreement or remain, because the EU has already said that it will not negotiate an alternative deal. There would, therefore, be a real risk of a portion of the electorate feeling that they did not have a real choice if only the deal and remain options were on the ballot paper. If, however, this transpired and these were the choices put to the people and they voted to accept the Withdrawal Agreement in a referendum prompted by the House of Commons voting against the adoption of the very same Agreement, this would again appear to put the people in direct conflict with their representatives. This has the potential to cause further issues of legitimacy and trust in the political system by precipitating a clash between direct and representative democracy. The only real precedent for this is Parliament voting for triggering Article 50 following the last EU referendum, where the majority in Parliament was known to be for ‘remain’ but the majority in the country was for ‘leave’.

As for the time implications of setting the question, Justine Greening MP stated in the House of Commons on 5 December that a ‘referendum can be held in 22 weeks. We could hold one on 30 May’. A further referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU would require a new Act of Parliament in order to provide for both the practicalities and the legal authority to conduct it, and under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, the Electoral Commission is required to comment on the intelligibility of referendum questions as soon as reasonably practicable after the introduction of a Bill containing a question. The 2015 legislation providing legal authority for the 2016 EU referendum took from its first reading in the House of Commons on 28 May 2015, until it received Royal Assent on 17 December 2015, to enact. It is possible that utilising this Act as a template for another referendum would save Parliamentary time, although amendments would inevitably have to be made. It is widely acknowledged that the 2016 Brexit referendum was advisory because the 2015 Referendum Act did not make provision for what would happen in the event of either a majority vote to leave or a majority vote to remain. In contrast, the legislation providing for the 2011 referendum on the voting system did make provision for the possible outcomes of the vote, and is considered binding as a result. Legislation enacted to provide the legal authority for a second Brexit referendum could be made binding through the inclusion of clauses specifying the steps to be taken in the event of the differing resulting scenarios, and could even provide for a majority threshold of a certain percentage. Therefore, enacting the legislation required to provide legal authority for a second Brexit referendum could foreseeably elongate the timescale suggested by using the 2015 Act as a template. As discussed above, the question posed in any such second Brexit referendum may well be different to the first, and consequently also take Parliamentary time to draft and enact. The issue of time will be addressed further below.

Europe and Second Time Rounds

The history of the process of European integration is a history of second referenda. Examples of second referendums being held include the referendum conducted by Denmark on the Maastricht Treaty on 2 June 1992 and then again on 18 May 1993. Ireland held a referendum on the Nice Treaty on 7 June 2001 and the second vote was held on 19 October 2002, Ireland again held a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 12 June 2008, in which 53.4 per cent of Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty, against 46.6 per cent who supported it. The second referendum was held on 2 October 2009, which provided a positive result of 67.1 per cent. The second rounds are generally conducted in a relatively short period of time. The exception to this is Norway, this time on accession to the EU, which held the first referendum in 1972 and the second in 1994. Of course, these votes related either to Treaty ratification or to EU accession, and therefore integration within the European Union. They do not relate to withdrawal. The difference between the purpose of these referendums and any second Brexit referendum means that their value as precedent is uncertain, their consequences still lingering, but they at least show the evidence of potential flexibility in the EU system and some endorsement of differentiated integration.

 © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Timing and the EU Side

Article 50 (3) TEU provides that ‘The Treaties shall cease to apply to the [withdrawing] State in question from … two years after the notification [to withdraw] … unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period’; therefore the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019. Therefore, the only exception is if unanimous agreement is reached in the European Council to extend this two year period. If this is not achieved, the UK will leave the EU and cease to be a Member State on 29 March 2019 by operation of law. Consequently, if any referendum resulting in a vote for remaining in the EU were conducted in excess of this timescale without an extension being provided, the UK would be required to seek to re-join the EU in accordance with Article 49 TEU.

As to the legal possibility of an extension, notably, Article 50 TEU does not specify a connection between the constitutional requirements of the withdrawing Member State and the two-year time limit contained in that Article. There is no express term(s) providing that an extension to the two-year time period will be granted in order for the constitutional requirements of the withdrawing Member State to be performed. This would include a postponed vote on a withdrawal agreement under sections 11 and 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. There is also nothing in the recent Advocate General’s Opinion in Wightman to suggest otherwise. In fact, paragraph 147 of that Opinion states ‘A temporal limit on the revocation of notifications of the intention to withdraw may be inferred from Article 50(3) TEU: it is possible only within the two-year negotiation period that begins when the intention to withdraw is notified to the European Council’ unless this period is extended in accordance with Article 50 TEU. This has been confirmed by the Court. It seems to us that such an extension could be considered by the EU as rebus sic stantibus if the mechanism to set up a referendum were at least in place, as it seems unlikely that EU would simply agree to an extension if this is perceived as a device by which to acquire additional negotiating time.

What should also be considered is that the European Parliament elections will be held on 23 to 26 May 2018, following which a new Commission President is to be elected with the input of the newly formed European Parliament, potentially as early as July 2019. A second referendum would presumably require the EU to grant not only an extension to the Article 50 TEU period but also to readjust its electoral calendar for 2019 to provide not just for the UK to vote in another referendum but also for the result to be ascertained and communicated with sufficient time for the MEP elections to be held, potentially in the UK as well, should such a referendum produce a vote to remain.

When direct universal suffrage for (the then) Assembly was first introduced back in 1976, the Act of 20 September OJ L 278, 8.10.1976, p. 5 in Article 11 stated that ‘Should it prove impossible to hold the elections […] the Council acting unanimously shall, after consulting the European Parliament, determine, at least one year before the end of the five-year term referred to in Article 5, another electoral period which shall not be more than two months before or one month after the period fixed pursuant to the preceding subparagraph.’ Accordingly, the 2019 elections will take place from 23 to 26 May and it is therefore too late to readjust this date because it is too late to comply with the one-year notice stipulation. Furthermore, if another referendum in the UK yielded a vote to remain, Article 3a of Council Decision (EU, EURATOM 2018/994 of 13 July 2018 amending the Act concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, annexed to Council Decision 76/787/ECSC, Euratom of 20 September 1976) would apply, which states ‘Where national provisions set a deadline for the submission of candidacies for election to the European Parliament, that deadline shall be at least three weeks before the date fixed by the relevant Member State […] for holding the elections to the European Parliament’. Unless the UK political parties have already complied with this three-week time period, by operation of EU law the latest date the EU could extend the Article 50 Period to is the end of April 2019. In actual fact, it has been suggested that for a post-referendum decision to decide whether the UK is to participate in these elections, the referendum would have to take place by 11 April 2019 at the latest. The only viable alternative would be to suspend the voting rights of UK citizens for the duration of an Article 50 TEU extension, which would exceed the current date set for the European Parliament elections.

As almost all Member States allow for the possibility of voting from abroad in European elections, European citizens can still be offered the option either to vote in their country of origin or ‘wait’ for any election that may be run in the UK. However, the European Council has already approved new rules regarding the redistribution of British MEP seats. It established that 27 of the UK’s 73 seats would be redistributed to other countries, while the remaining 46 seats will be kept for future enlargements. Therefore, the EU would have to agree to suspend the redistribution of seats as well as the European Parliament elections in the UK. One could argue that if the referendum vote was to remain, by-elections could be organized quickly in the guise of those set up in instances of accession of a new Member State, as in the case of Croatia. However, this would not necessarily be the preferred option, in light of the European Commission President’s elections due to follow shortly after, and with such an extension needed to be granted in order to hold the vote, the potential outcome would not be known, and so the incentive for the EU to grant such an extension to permit the UK to ‘remain’ would be based on speculation as to the outcome.

Conclusion

The timescales surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU have always been tight. The postponement of the vote on a withdrawal deal tightens the timescales even further. It also appears that the suggested way of resolving the political logjam in the House of Commons over accepting the Withdrawal Agreement through another referendum, does nothing to alleviate this. Furthermore, a second referendum invokes issues of legitimacy. Another referendum cannot be seen to be rushed through with a shorter campaign period than with the first Brexit referendum, of at least ten weeks, as it would otherwise be perceived as undermining basic principles of democracy. Postponing one vote in the House of Commons consequently postpones any opportunity for another vote in the country. As a result, the possibility of there being a second referendum reduces along with it.

This article gives the views of the author(s), and not the position of LSE Brexit, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Professor Andrea Biondi is Professor of European Union Law and the Director of the Centre of European Law at King’s College London. He is an Academic Associate at 39 Essex Chambers in London. 

Dr Maria Kendrick is the Brexit Research Fellow at the Centre of European Law at King’s College London. She is also a visiting lecturer of both EU Law and Public Law at the LSE.

 

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