Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Brexit Vote Was "No" Not "Yes"

In any reasonable sense of a "federal" referendum, the United Kingdom did not vote to quit the European Union.  (I put "federal" in quotes because I know that the United Kingdom is not a federation in the American sense.  However, I use the term because I believe that the United Kingdom must figure out a workable federalism if it is to survive.)

There are two ways to count the result and they both lead to the same result: there was no vote favoring an exit.  If England and Wales are counted together, the vote was two to one against: England-Wales voting "yes" and Northern Ireland and Scotland voting "no."  If England and Wales are counted separately, then there was a tie:  England and Wales voting "yes" and Northern Ireland and Scotland voting "no."  A tie is a nullity and not a vote to quit the European Union.

To the extent the referendum ignored these critical "federal" issues, the Parliament of a United Kingdom needs to step in immediately and fix this before the country risks unraveling.  If the country wants to stay together (and I hope it does!), the United Kingdom must quickly begin working on a workable federalism for the future that respects all four regions while at the same time recognizing democracy to the extent consistent with the desired federalism.  Though the American model is by no means perfect, it provides ideas in, for example, the compromise achieved by giving more populous states more representation in the House of Representatives while protecting smaller states with equal representation in the Senate.  It also provides ideas in the protections given smaller states by requiring super-majorities in the mechanisms permitting amendment to the Constitution.

My best wishes to all on what I fear may be a difficult road ahead.

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