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The EU referendum was a close affair, with a 52 / 48% split in the vote. What makes things particularly interesting is that the number of people who regret their vote is supposedly bigger than the difference in the vote between Leave and Remain.

This means that, arguably, more people actually now want to remain than to leave.

There is this idea, and you see it with the Sottish referendum, that people are not allowed to change their mind. We seem to want to stop Scotland from having their second referendum because, you know, you voted once and it should only be a once a generation thing. But hang on, we vote on different governments every four years! We’re allowed to change our mind and vote in entirely different ruling governments!

Add to this the idea of a supermajority. Some organisations and countries have rulings that mean that votes that concern a fundamental change in the political make-up or future of said entity require more than just a greater than 50% vote, often a 75% vote.

Furthermore, this vote was only ever advisory. It had no legal or constitutional backing to it, merely being something to gauge public opinion before putting it through Parliament if deemed necessary. The irony being that many Leave voters were arguing for parliamentary democracy in light of the EU power structures, and yet were willing to bypass such a democratic notion by using a public referendum as legally and governmentally binding. We had to wait for Gina Miller to challenge this in courts to accept that the referendum was not binding in the way in which it was hijacked.

The point of all of this is that this is by no means a “clear mandate” – a term so commonly heard coming from the lips of politicians and activists, even ex-Remainers, that it beggars belief.

The biggest issue, though, is the following one, not one of the very powerful previous points.

Let’s reduce this to the mundane to prove a point. Instead of the EU referendum question, let’s pose a new one:

Should I walk to the shops now to go and buy some broccoli?

Sounds simple, right? I weigh up the arguments of what I know…

PRO: I fancy some broccoli; I can walk there in ten minutes; the shop sells broccoli.

CONS: I can use cauliflower that is in my fridge instead; I could drive, and it’s raining.

After weighing these arguments up, I decide it is a good idea to go. Broccoli by foot beckons.

But I made that argument without the full knowledge. It turns out that I walked to the shop and was mugged on the way. If I had done my research a little better, or had access to facts that I otherwise wouldn’t have had, then my vote may well have been different. For example, if I had known that there would have been a 50% chance of me being mugged on the way, then I would have chosen differently. I would have driven.

Now imagine I have made my decision, and I am just about to walk out the door when I get a phone call from the police. They tell me to beware, that there are muggers in the area, and there is a 50% chance of me being mugged if I walk to town.

Now I have more information about my original choice. I can change my mind in light of this new evidence. In fact, it is bloody important that I change my mind, that I leave my house and go to town a different way than I had first chosen, or not to leave my house at all. I should be allowed to change my mind in light of new facts. I wouldn’t, on taking the phone call, say to myself, “Well, I decided ten minutes ago to walk, so I must adhere to that original decision!” That would leave me short of a bob or two. Heck, short of my wallet, pride, and feeling not a little beaten up.

That phone call is the equivalent of finding we don’t get access to the single market, the customs union, that EU citizens working here appear to get nothing, that the NHS is haemorrhaging (EU) staff, so on and so forth, with all the financial implications of these sorts of things.

I guess I’ll stay at home, thanks. Caulifower’s great, and I’ll get my brocolli in due course.

So no, the referendum was not a clear mandate, no matter which way you look at it.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...