Freedom of speech

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I am writing in response to the letter of Mike Brady, (Star, October 21).

Firstly, those “attempting to circumvent the outcome of the referendum”, as he puts it, are concerned to ensure that the proper democratic process is followed. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty permits a member state to give notice of its intention to leave the EU “In accordance with its own constitutional arrangements.”

Ironic that whilst the “leavers” were keen to champion the sovereignty of the British Parliament, we have an unelected Prime Minister attempting to circumvent parliamentary scrutiny by seeking to use an archaic “Royal Prerogative” to bypass the legislative process. Absolutely nothing democratic in that.

Secondly, which part of our unwritten constitution states that those who lose a vote must wholeheartedly support the prevailing view? Are the defeated parties in a General Election not permitted to voice their opposition to Government policies for the following five years? Is expressing dissent even viewed as treasonable? Whatever happened to that cherished principle of freedom of speech?

Thirdly, Chapter 5 of the House of Commons Briefing Paper for the 2015 EU Referendum Bill specifically states that this plebiscite was “pre-legislative or consultative”, and that “the UK does not have constitutional provisions which would require the results of a referendum to be implemented.” For an irreversible step such as leaving the EU to be taken, it would be expected to require some sort of threshold, such as 60%, to be achieved, rather than a simple majority vote, to demonstrate that it is the decided will of the British people. The margin of victory for “leave”, 51.9% to 48.1%, is hardly convincing. Two of the four constituent nations of the UK voted to remain in the EU.

June’s result was delivered on the back of a number of highly dubious claims, the most glaring being the one about £350 million a week that we currently pay to the EU being diverted to the NHS, which was painted on the side of a “battlebus”, but disowned the day after the vote.

Given that some of those who made these promises are now in senior Government positions, they should be held to account over their failure to deliver.

Fourthly, research has suggested that the “leave” side won largely due to the votes of pensioners. Whilst senior citizens, just like the rest of us, are entitled to their views, with respect, it will not be they who will have to live with the long-term consequences of a departure from Europe.

Since the referendum was called, Sterling has lost around 20% of its value. Prices (such as petrol) are now on the rise, and the cost of living is becoming dearer. Those who are likely to be most affected, i.e. those of working age and below, are surely right to be concerned about any threat to the economic welfare of their families and themselves.

As a footnote, I seem to recall Nigel Farage, perhaps expecting remain to win narrowly, was famously quoted as saying, back in May, that in the event of a 52%-48% result in the referendum, it would not be over by a long way.

On that point, I tend to agree with him,

NP Johnson

Sheffield