Since the EU Referendum on 23rd June, I have received many hundreds of calls, letters and emails with people asking questions, making comments or suggestions about what the steps now should be.
Most of the emails I have received have been detailed, heartfelt and personal and I would like to be able to respond to each individually, but I do not believe that is practically possible.
In order to answer as many of the questions as possible, I have put together the information below. Some of the information below will not be relevant to every person who has contacted me but if, after reading this, you still have questions, please do get in touch.
How did I vote and why?
I voted to remain in Europe – you can read my thought process at michelledonelan.com/eu. I was and I still am concerned that it was not the right time to think about leaving the EU given that we have just got over a recession. I prioritised local jobs and the stability of our economy. I wanted to give Europe one last shot and I stand by my belief that the only way to change a club is to be a member.
However, the other week the British people voted to get out of Europe with a referendum. The turnout was high based on election turnouts and the result was clear despite being close. If this had been an election result it certainly would be honoured as we do have a First Past The Vote system in the UK. In addition if Remain had won we would have honoured that, so we have a democratic duty to honour the result.
Do not leave the EU / Do not trigger Article 50 / Ignore the Referendum result
Approximately 600 of the emails I have received are from constituents informing me that they have signed the e-petition calling for a second referendum: many of whom have also asked me to ignore the result of the referendum.
However much we may disagree with or regret the result, we live in a democracy and must accept that 17million people disagreed with our point of view on this issue. The country has voted and we must implement the collective view as best we can.
I do not believe it would be appropriate to re-run the referendum on our EU Membership and the Prime Minister has been clear that this is “not remotely on the cards”. The British people have voted, through a free and fair referendum on 23 June. Whatever your view of this decision, it must be accepted and the process of implementing the decision in the best possible way must now begin.
It will be the responsibility of the Prime Minister to translate that result into action, choosing the correct pathway to leave the European Union and the correct relationship to have with it.
I understand that many people feel strongly that the UK should remain in the EU and have therefore signed a petition to bring about a second referendum. However, for the reasons outlined above I do not feel this would be appropriate. In addition, the e-petition makes reference to imposing a minimum turnout threshold, however this was not included in the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and would therefore require retrospective legislation. Changing the rules after the referendum would severely undermine the democratic process.
The House of Commons Petitions Committee will make a decision shortly on whether this petition will be debated. If debated it will not need a vote and will not cause a second referendum.
There has been a gradual breakdown of trust between the public and politicians over the last few years. If politicians were now to ignore the will of the people it would serve only to exacerbate this and cause a host of problems. The referendum may not have been legally binding but it was expected that the result would be implemented and the Prime Minister promised/ warned that this would be the case time and time again. A decision to overturn the result would irreversibly damage what is left of the trust that people place in their politicians and their expectations of them, thus it would damage our democracy.
We should not have had a referendum in the first place
During the 2010-2015 Parliament a referendum was discussed at great length and the EU Referendum was a key pledge within the Conservative Party manifesto for the 2015 General Election. The government therefore had a mandate to hold a referendum. There was a clear demand for a referendum, reflected in the high turnout and very significant ‘Leave’ result.
What happens now?
The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their decision will be respected. The Government will now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union, working alongside the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that the interests of all parts of our UK are protected and advanced.
David Cameron stepped down stating that new leadership was required for this important next step in the UK’s path.
Theresa May will decide when to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begin the formal process of exit negotiations.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister has announced the creation of a new EU unit in Whitehall. This will bring together officials and policy expertise from across the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Foreign Office and the Business Department. The new unit will sit at the heart of government and be led and staffed by the best and brightest from across the civil service. It will report to the whole Cabinet on delivering the outcome of the referendum, advising on transitional issues and objectively exploring options for our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world from outside the EU.
There will be no initial change in the way Britons can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold. The UK will remain in the European Union while we negotiate our exit with our European neighbours.
Did David Cameron have to resign?
David Cameron said that having been such a key figure in the campaign to remain in the European Union and believing passionately that the best interests for the UK are to remain within the EU, that he is not the best person to lead the exit negotiations and lead the country into the future. As much as I regret that David will no longer be our Prime Minister, I respect and support him in his decision
Hate Crimes post the Referendum result
At Prime Minister’s Questions the other week, I raised the serious case of a former employee who was racially abused with the abuse linked to the ‘Leave’ result. There have been many similar reports nationally and some locally. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary have confirmed that the full resources of the Police and authorities will be available to deal with these unacceptable hate crimes.
A ‘snap’ General Election
I do not believe that a ‘snap’ General Election will be called. The fixed-term Parliament Act make it difficult to achieve unless a huge proportion of Parliament agree there should be one. In fact it could damage engagement as voters especially in Scotland are beginning to get election and referendum fatigue.
I used my weekly column in the local paper to detail more of my thoughts, you can read that at: https://michelledonelan.co.uk/need-for-a-figurehead-to-unite-our-country-again/
The result of an election or referendum must be final, otherwise the establishment will repeat, repeat and repeat until their outcome is achieved. I hope you agree that such a system would not be democracy. Politicians now have a duty to carry out the will of the people and rest assure I will stand up for our interests and jobs and will push to ensure we get the best very best deal for the UK and for Wiltshire.