Wednesday 7 December 2016

Brexit now a legal saga - because Cameron did not listen to Machiavelli

Hugh O'Flaherty

Published 02/12/2016 | 02:30

Ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron
Ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron

I have often wondered what possessed David Cameron to hold the referendum that he did. The only question that was asked of electors was should the United Kingdom leave or remain in the European Union. As Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal party leader, put it in recently: the people had voted to leave but had not voted for a destination.

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What had the UK prime minister to gain even if the remain side had won? True, he had promised prior to the election a referendum on Britain's relationship with the EU. But this was to ward off the threat that Ukip then appeared to pose for the Tories. But Ukip won only one seat in the election and Mr Cameron secured an overall majority. So, could he not have said: the people have spoken and given us a clear mandate to govern?

Even if he had carried the referendum, he would not have been able to shake off the eurosceptics. They would continue - recalling PJ Mara's vivid phrase - to nibble at his bum. The warning signs for a defeat were there with a strong Scottish nationalist showing in the election and with the likelihood that a majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland would vote to remain.

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