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Update: what does the government’s Brexit plan really mean for consumers?

Brexit and Westminster

Theresa May’s government published their Brexit White Paper last week – but what does it really mean? Our resident Brexit expert Jane Wallace sets our latest findings…

Update: 12/10/2018

Today, we’ve released our no-deal Brexit report. Our in-depth research has revealed that the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit could mean ‘immediate’ and ‘severe’ consequences for millions of consumers.

We’ve assessed the government’s plans against the tests we set out in our Consumer Charter for Brexit in March 2018: Prices, Rights, Standards and Choice.

Close inspection reveals that the government’s technical papers on leaving the EU suggest a reduction in rights and choice, as well as price hikes that would have a ‘direct and hard’ impact on consumers.

Read our latest news

Download the full report

Update: 13/09/2018

Britons face the return of EU roaming charges under a ‘no-deal Brexit’. Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive of Which?, said:

“Two thirds of people think it is important that free roaming exists when travelling in the EU, so the news that we could face the return of sky-high charges to use our phones abroad will come as a real blow. If the Government is to deliver a Brexit that works for consumers, it needs to not only maintain free-roaming across the EU, but also look to extend the benefit of free-roaming for people visiting countries worldwide.”

Devil’s in the detail

It’s hard to find a front page that hasn’t spoken about Brexit following the Cabinet meeting at Chequers and the publication of the Government’s Brexit White Paper – it’s been everywhere.

As always we’ve been cutting through the rhetoric, reviewing how the Government’s negotiating position for the future UK-EU relationship measures up against our consumer charter.

Good news first: the paper is a certainly a welcome step for consumers including positive proposals Which? has been calling for to ensure a UK-EU deal delivers for consumers – from on-going access to goods, securing energy and food supplies and how people travel.

That said, the paper is not perfect and there are things missing, including a clear commitment that there will be no undermining of food standards – and there’s no commitment made to maintain mobile roaming when visiting the EU.

On the middle ground, there’s a lot contained in the paper where the devil will be in the detail.

We need the Government to ensure the details reflect the ambition such as ensuring an aviation agreement includes compensation so consumers can be confident in their rights.

It is also essential that the where the UK aligns with EU rules, consumer protection is paramount with meaningful input into future legal requirements covering consumer goods.

As well as at the negotiating table the Government must also take the initiative at home. Throughout the paper areas are outlined where the UK won’t align with the EU. In these spaces the Government must step up for consumers and pursue policies which at the very least maintain, if not improve, things for consumers.

There are also steps the Government can be taking now – investing in national systems to support the ambition in enforcement of consumer rights, product safety and food standards.

What we’re calling for

We’re writing to the Prime Minister to deliver our assessment of the white paper. As well as defending and developing the pro-consumer parts of the proposal we’ve outlined five key actions to take. We want the Government to:

1.Commit to maintaining current consumer protections e.g in food safety and quality

2. Ensure the Air Transport deal includes consumer rights such as flight delay compensation

3. Urgently reform the UK product safety and consumer protection system to stop dangerous products reaching our shelves

4. Set out a timeline for Brexit and keep consumers updated on what it actually means for them

5. Provide assurances that where we align with EU, the consumer voice will be represented

Fighting your corner

Of course, this paper is only a starting point and there will no doubt be changes as we move through the negotiations, but it’s reassuring consumer issues are being picked up. We now need to ensure they’re developed as the details are fleshed out and defended around the negotiating table.

As we enter this new phase where consumer issues are up for grabs in Brussels and at home, we’ll be holding the Government’s feet to the fire to ensure the issues consumers care about aren’t traded off or forgotten about and we’ll keep you updated as we go.

Have you been following the Brexit white paper? Would you welcome the Government talking more about what this means for you as a consumer? What would be the best way for the Government to reach consumers to provide updates?


I can’t believe the jingoistic stance taken by most remainers. Do you honestly believe that the EU has any flexibility in its negotiations with us. We belonged to a club we erroneously decided to leave that club and are therefore no longer using club rules. Anybody with an ounce of intelligence will realise that their hands are tied.
So now we all pay the price of economic destruction of our lives at the hands of about 15 Tory right wing fascists who can afford to leave this country behind them when they at last see the enormous damage done to us as a result of this ness

15 Tory right wing facists? I believe it was 17.4 million of your fellow British citizens. The gradual economic destruction is what would happen to Britain (and most European countries) if we continued to allow unelected bureaucrats to dictate UK rules and laws.

The referendum result was motivated by the same factors that influenced the German federal election of 6th November 1932, in which Adolf Hitler’s N**i party received the largest share of the vote with an 81% turnout. Many leave campaigners argue that the result of the referendum on 23rd June 2016 must be respected on the basis that it was democratic and had a 72% turnout. Both 6th November 1932 and 23rd June 2016 were free and democratic votes, yet both their outcomes were motivated by xenophobia and perverted nationalism. Therefore both votes’ outcomes merit the same level of respect – or lack of it.

Please don’t resurrect discussions about AH and the N***s.

My addled credit brain wrote “remainers” when of course it should have read ” leavers”

Phil says:
8 August 2018

But you were right first time. Also, language such as “anybody with an ounce of intelligence” does nothing to promote your cause as you are insulting those whose opinions you seek to influence.

Which?, in an email on Brexit today, seem quite upbeat about the effect on consumers:
What does the Brexit White paper mean for you?
When the UK leaves the EU, issues – such as our rights if something goes wrong with a product or service we bought from the EU – will be dependent on the UK-EU future relationship. The government’s White Paper features lots of positive proposals we’ve been campaigning for, including access to goods, stable supplies of energy and food, and protection for travellers. But does it go far enough?

My simple take on this is we as consumers should be NO WORSE OFF after Brexit than before. As I spend half my time in or travelling through Europe key issues that IMHO still need addressing are –

Air Transport & Flight Delay Compensation
Mobile Roaming
Driving in Europe with continued acceptance of UK driving licences, vehicle registration documents & registration plates.

Recognition of UK registration documents is governed by Article 35 of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic 1968. Recognition of UK number plates is governed by Article 36, although technically we might have to go back to old-fashioned white GB stickers rather than a blue strip on the number plate in order to satisfy the Article 37. What’s more significant is recognition of insurance certificates without the need to buy a green card.

I fully support the five principles of this “Which” campaign for consumers – I will certainly not touch any contaminated American food with a barge pole if it gets here!! As important, if not more so, are the issues regarding the potential destructive damage to our manufacturers, and the possible decamping of the likes of Airbus, Nissan, and other large international concerns into the EU post-Brexit. I have little time for the unelected dictatorship of the EU Commission, but the referendum was posed with a criminal lack of information for the guidance of the voter. If our current raft of politicians have any regard for the future of Britain, irrespective of their “IN” or “OUT” stance, they should stop the headlong rush over the EU cliff!!!

Robert Campbell says:
8 August 2018

I live in N Ireland. The discourse around the White Paper is unsettling; we don’t know what will happen with the border. This is significant for us, as we fly from Dublin. Will there be problems? What other problems will happen.

Further, the UK is to withdraw from Euratom. So where are the isotopes for medical scans going to come from? Not an everyday consumer item, but very important to those in need.

I doubt that any of the Leave campaigning politicians had ever crossed the Irish border, let alone understood its significance to Brexit, until recently if at all.

When Liam Fox was asked about trade across the Irish border during a BBC1 debate on 26th May 2016, his ignorant response was that the Common Travel Area (comprising the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) would continue to operate. Although this was a correct statement, he was so stupid that he didn’t realise that the Common Travel Area has nothing to do with customs controls (on goods), only immigration controls (on people). Most other Leave politicians are similarly ignorant, and that’s why we’re now in such a mess.

I do not wish to be governed by un-elected EU bureaucrats imposing rules and laws on us from afar. I do not want our borders to be open to unregulated immigration. BUT, I think the economic price that we will pay for ending these problems will be far too great to pay. Project fear you may shout, but I have not yet seen a reasoned economic argument that proves we will not be worse off as a nation after brexit. I would dearly like to be convinced, but I do fear – I fear the risk is too great to take.

Well put. Unlike you, many of those who voted to leave are happy to put their ideological objectives ahead of economic prosperity. I have the impression that many “hard Brexiteers” want to leave the EU at any cost, even if it puts the UK into recession for many years.

The UK economy will boom after Brexit. There will be prosperity for everyone, like we have never seen before. The UK will be a land of milk and honey and the streets will be paved with gold. THIS IS A WELL KNOWN FACT AND CANNOT BE DISPUTED.

Hey Mr NFH, I thought you may as well see how your arguments look to people on the other side of the fence. You have not one piece of evidence to support your economic views. The only thing you have is Project Fear mark 2 (or is it 3 or 4 or 5 or…………….)

The facts are very clear. You have lost the vote in the Referendum, by about 2.4 million. Even if it had been only one vote, you would still have lost (recounts excepted) by the rules that were agreed before the vote.There was never ANY discussion about the degree in which we will leave the EU (ie partly in or partly out). There was no Hard or Soft Brexit discussed. This was invented by you lot AFTER the result was announced. The question was simple. “Do you wish to remain inside or leave the EU”. The answer was given.

The main fact is that you don’t have a leg to stand on. The Referendum has been the only purely democratic event that this country has experienced for decades. Why? Because ALL of our votes counted. Mine and yours. You lost. Get over it. You haven’t a leg to stand on.

With sadness I share your opinion, NFH. I wish to leave the EU but not at any cost, and certainly not in an humiliated manner which is where we are heading. I don’t think lobbying for a second referendum is helpful, however: it just weakens our resolve in the eyes of the other 27 states.

Peter, what do you mean by “Project Fear“? Are you referring to the Leave campaign’s blatant lie that “Five more countries are in the process of joining [the EU], including Turkey. When they join, they will have the same rights as other members“ and other similar lies?

Phil says:
9 August 2018

My vote to leave was based entirely on the positive effect it will have on the UK economy. Much of the economic benefits will arises from getting out of the price fixing cartel of the single market + customs union. Further benefits will accrue from no longer paying the EU membership bill and yet more from no longer having to adhere to pointless and expensive red tape.

Please can we all stop arguing. The question was clear on the ballot paper, and the decision was made to leave, after a ballot which was the biggest in our history. Let’s just get on with it, and for once respect the wishes of the people (hoi polloi) who actually have opinions, and votes, not just the Westminster bubble.

I agree with you, Margaret, but a lot of people want to haggle and niggle over the finer points – is it this? or is it that?, shall we? shan’t we? could we? should we? . . . meanwhile we are sleepwalking backwards over a cliff and onto the rocks below. Has anybody, anywhere, across the whole political spectrum, actually got a better plan than the PM’s that would deliver the referendum OUT result, keep an open border with Ireland, enable free trade in goods in and out of the EU, prevent free movement of people, take back control of our farming and fishing, and restore supremacy to our Supreme Court and the UK Parliament? [I can already hear the chisels being drawn as people start to chip away at all these points with their ‘but’s and their ‘what if’s.]

Margaret, we need a 3rd referendum for two reasons:

1. In the same way the the so-called “will of the people” changed between the 1st referendum in 1975 and the 2nd referendum in 2016, polls currently show that it has changed again since the 2nd referendum in 2016 towards remaining in the EU, particularly after the implications of leaving have become clearer. A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy.

2. The only question asked in the 2nd referendum in 2016 was about whether to remain in or to leave the EU. The electorate has not been asked about the manner in which the UK leaves the EU. As well as the EU, there are other European bodies that some of the electorate might want to leave, of which non-EU countries such as Norway and Russia are members. The electorate needs to be asked whether it wants to leave the single market (includes Switzerland partially), EEA (includes Norway), customs union (includes Turkey) and Council of Europe (includes Russia). There is a wide spectrum between leaving none of these (known as “soft Brexit”) and leaving all of these (known as “hard Brexit”). There have been suggestions that the UK should exit the European Convention on Human Rights, which would mean leaving the Council of Europe.

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NFH. Will you answer my comments?

Did vote leave win the highest number of votes in the Referendum?

Were the rules very clear on both sides about the course of action following the result? ie We stay or we leave depending on the outcome of the votes.

Was there ever any discussion about the magnitude of our leaving (partly in or partly out) before the Referendum took place? This refers to the hijacked version using the terms “hard and soft”. Did people believe that a vote to remain would mean that we would Remain and a vote to leave meant we would Leave?

Or did they believe that a vote either way would mean that in the end we would half stay in and half get out, regardless of how we voted (rendering the whole exercise a waste of time)?

Or did they believe that a vote to leave would mean that we would remain anyway? Rendering the whole exercise a waste of time?

Do you believe that the Referendum was the purist form of democracy in this country since 1975, because we all had one vote and every vote counted (unlike a general election)? (My guess to your answer to this question is that the Referendum was not democratic. Could you tell me why you think this, other than “we didn’t get the right result”)?

Do you think that you can give truly honest answers to these questions?

Are you a single person who spends 24 hours per day on this website or are you in fact, a group of fanatics who take it in shifts to man this website around the clock.

Whatever you are, as far as I’m concerned, OVER AND OUT.

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Peter, you ask too many questions in one go, so I’ll focus on the one that seems most important to you, about whether the referendum was democratic. No, I don’t believe it was democratic, for at least two reasons:

The headline figure of 51.89% being in favour of leaving the European Union was misleading, because the low turnout meant that only 37.44% of the electorate voted to leave. The European Union Referendum Act 2015 did not set a threshold of 50% of votes to result in leaving the EU. For such a major constitutional change, a threshold of 50% of the electorate (as opposed to 50% of votes) would be more appropriate.

Vote Leave spent £2.7m of its £7m budget on the services of a Canadian digital marketing firm, Aggregate IQ. It then channelled a further £675,315 to Aggregate IQ through BeLeave, another campaign group, resulting in Vote Leave spending a total of £7,449,079, breaching its £7m spending limit. This this unlawful spending gave an unfair advantage to the Leave campaign, not least as Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings said of Aggregate IQ “We couldn’t have done it without them“.

You have to decide how to make a decision in a democracy through a voting system, and how you regard those who do not bother to vote, or are unable to. You could regard the non-voters as representative of the population as a whole. Do we have reason not to? Or you could regard them as so confident of the outcome that they felt no need to add their voice (which outcome?). But whatever view you take, they did not add their views and we do not know what they would have voted for.

As there was no threshold given, simply a decision on the basis of a majority of those who were responsible citizens and bothered to vote, I see no reason to try to overturn their decision.

As for turnout, we achieved over 72% which is quite respectable given that General elections have only been between 61 and 68% in the last 8 years. The Scottish referendum had a very high turnout – nearly 85% – with 55% saying “no” to independence and 45% “yes”. Yet, if the 50% threshold of all registered voters had been applied, that “no” vote would have been below. What then? What, exactly, is a fair voting result when many choose not to vote, probably largely through apathy, lack of interest, don’t care?

As far as the spending is concerned I wonder just how many people were persuaded by the “marketing” arguments presented by either side, so I think this is not a significant issue (but a straw to grasp, of course). There was enough derision poured on the leavers’ claim that we would save £350m a week, and the simple fact presented to demonstrate its silly basis, that I suspect some marginal leavers might have turned into marginal remainers.

Malcolm, with regard to your comment “I wonder just how many people were persuaded by the “marketing” arguments presented by either side“, you only need to look at Vote Leave’s campaign director Dominic Cummings’ comment, where he said of Aggregate IQ “We couldn’t have done it without them“. This confirms that the unlawful overspend on Aggregate IQ won the referendum for Vote Leave. We need another referendum in light of this unlawful spending.

We know (closely) four who voted to Leave. Before and after the vote I asked them in some detail why they voted to leave. Here’s the reasons and some background (numbers only, no names):

1. Wanted to teach Cameron a ‘lesson’
2. Didn’t want immigrants from Turkey arriving in ‘hordes’ (their words).
3. Hated being ‘controlled’ by ‘foreigners’.
4. Thought we needed to keep Britain as Britain. Why should we be part of the EU?

(3) and (4) are also avid followers of info wars and Breitbart and believe there’s a conspiracy to control us. When pressed, they didn’t know who it was.

The most interesting was (3); they were adamant that the UK was special with its own history and culture and we should keep that at all costs. When I put forward the point that the same logic could be applied to N Ireland, Scotland and Wales, they were equally adamant that it couldn’t, because they were part of the UK.

I believe, despite it being a tiny sample, that this does summarise neatly why we don’t govern by plebiscite but by Parliamentary democracy. We often criticise government because of the time taken for it to legislate on what we often see as vital matters, but MPs are not experts in anything other than talking, so they always seek specialist advice from committees of experts.

When those experts differ (as almost all experts do) they take advice from other experts and attempt to reach a consensus, at which point a Green paper starts to appear.

The point is that through this process by the time something becomes law it’s been considered and mulled over for quite a while, and had input from the best experts in the field.

The referendum had none of the above. It was a serious mistake ever to have started it because no matter what the result it was bound to create a huge ideological split.

Our system of democracy might be flawed, might not be the best and might be wrong from time to time, but it’s better than a vast number of other systems.

NFH – that assumes that Dominic Cummings has information that showed his campaign was so effective that it tipped the balance, or that I believe DC in the first place.The money spent by both sides was not very dissimilar. Who says that the results are proportional to the money spent?

I suspect that many voters will have drawn on their experience, news reports, documentaries, interviews, and all the plethora of comment about the EU built up over many years of exposure, and decided their view for or against on their overall perception.

To suggest that because of a relatively small amount of unlawful spending, when there is no knowledge of its effect, should trigger another referendum seems a poor excuse to put the country through even more turmoil.

Ian, you’re spot-on. You point out that holding the referendum was a serious mistake. I would add that it was held for the benefit of the Conservative party, and not for the benefit of the country. The Conservatives feared losing seats to UKIP if they didn’t offer a referendum. While in government, the Conservatives are continuing to put party ahead of country. It’s shameful. I used to vote for them but won’t do so again unless they become a pro-EU party.

Phil says:
10 August 2018

So which pro-EU party will you vote for; SNP, Lib Dem?

As a habitual Liberal Democrat voter that won’t be a hard question for me to answer.

Phil says:
10 August 2018

Hi Derek; I should have said my question was addressed to NFH.

Phil – I get that – but this is a public forum, so please do expect others to join in 🙂

I doubt anyone here has the knowledge to know whether staying or leaving the EU is right or wrong. It can never, with so many different issues to consider be simply one or the other. And right or wrong for whom? Nor can any of us see ahead as to what the final agreement will b, which is likely to be a last minute affair as such negotiations generally are when sense rather than grandstanding prevails. Nor can we predict how well we will stand on our own feet if we do leave.

As others have said, it is these detailed issues that benefit from discussion in a Convo. Arguments are weakened though, and positions entrenched, when we use language to try to force our views on people such as “lies, ignorance,AH, falsehood, warped, stupid…..”.

Phil says:
9 August 2018

Nicely put Malcolm R but I do think there is a way of simplifying this. The key to success for any country is its ability to create an environment that enables its citizens to generate and keep wealth. Most other matters are or should be periphery to this so, for example, the desire to travel freely to work and live in other countries is a nice to have for the individual but it is of no material benefit to the UK so should not be a part of the consideration to stay or leave.

I do think in a “friendly” world we should have free movement – whether for work or leisure. One fear seems to be the excessive demands that may place on a social security/benefits system in a popular country such as the UK. Maybe if the countries of origin were required to foot those bills?

But I agree, the benefits we should prioritise are those for the majority of the population. I can live with having to pay for medical insurance, higher mobile costs, for example for those who choose to travel, until we sort out sensible solutions. Our economy is my main concern and my personal view is that we will make that work, hopefully with less reliance on services and more on manufacturing to achieve a better balance. Being freed from the requirement to put major works out to tender throughout the EU rather than use a UK source (passports was an emotive example) might help; even if it is more expensive it would employ UK labour and resources, not foreign. But who knows. Simple it is not.

Phil says:
9 August 2018

Strictly, the issue isn’t free movement it is when people decide to settle. The UK population has grown too quickly over the past 15 years and infrastructure has failed to keep pace so; nurseries, schools, roads, trains, car parks, houses, etc., are all under stress but it is very difficult to monitise that stress so no one can pay for it as such. We need to manage our population growth to match our ability to cope with it and that will in turn have a positive effect on our economy.

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Phil says:
9 August 2018

Answering such questions is well above my pay grade but I would draw your attention to the growing recognition, a recent example being Sir David Attenborough, that population growth is becoming unsustainable and this is currently the biggest single problem in the world. Limiting immigration to the people we want and need seems like a good start point.

Phil, you suggest that free movement of labour is of no benefit to the UK. I disagree for at least three reasons:

1. The hospitality sector relies upon EU27 workers. British people generally don’t want to do these jobs, at least not in the long term. Of course, if the UK was not an EU/EEA member, it could pick and choose to whom to grant work permits, but EU27 citizens don’t want the hassle of applying for work permits; they will go to other more welcoming countries instead. Look at the problems already faced by UK fruit-picking companies, whereby even before Brexit has happened, EU27 citizens are staying away and British people don’t want to do this work. EU27 citizens pay a huge amount of tax in the UK, many doing jobs that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

2. Large international companies set up offices in the UK if they can quickly bring in staff from EU27 countries without any impediment (e.g. work permits). The majority of staff in such UK offices are existing UK residents, primarily British citizens, so this creates employment and tax revenue.

3. British citizens who exercise their right to free movement of labour more often work abroad for limited periods and then repatriate all of their income to the UK. Their labour abroad is often highly skilled and therefore highly priced (the opposite of EU27 citizens in the UK) and represents an export by the UK. I’m one of those people. I’ve worked in France, Germany, Belgium and Spain but never for more than one year at a time.

Phil says:
9 August 2018

If British people don’t want to do those jobs then that is a problem we need to fix rather than just papering over the cracks with short term fixes but, if we can’t fix that, then there are plenty of other places where willing labour can be found. But, back to my original point; the UK is full – the current level of building houses is wrecking many areas and turning them into huge featureless housing estates.

So NFH, I raise too many questions to answer. Which obviously means that you decline to offer an honest answer because this would expose your refusal to accept the democratic decision of the Referendum result. If you didn’t give an honest answer this would expose the fact that you use the tactics of all liberal extremists (ie to change the question, to shout the loudest, to be the most aggressive, to be the most extreme). Come on. I challenge you to answer ALL my questions…………………honestly, if you can.

As far as whether the Referendum was democratic or not, I think that any right minded person would accept it as THE most democratic vote for decades. So, not enough of your Remainers turned up did they? What a pathetic argument. To use the words of an old Eagles song, “Did they get tired, or did they just get lazy”?

This was the highest turn out of any vote ever in this country. According to your rules, do we have to get a 100% turn out? I couldn’t care less about your rules. The rules established by both sides before the Referendum were………. the largest vote wins. Come on, stop the obfuscation and stop trying to change the rules after the event. You are just exposing yourself to ridicule.

Answers please.

Peter, no, you just made it difficult to answer so many questions. You didn’t number them, so it would have involved repeating at least half of each question when answering. I’m a contributor, not your personal question-answering service, so if you want to ask me so many questions, please keep it simple and structured. But to answer your final question – I confirm that I am indeed an individual.

There’s something wrong in your maths if you believe you would need a 100% turnout for 50% of the electorate to vote to leave. If, for example, there is an 80% turnout and >62.5% of votes cast are to leave, then >50% of electorate voted to leave. In other countries, referendums for major changes require super-majorities (e.g. two thirds); I’m suggesting something simpler.

Back to another point about democracy – just because a referendum is democratic, does that mean that it should be always implemented? For example, if a referendum result advocates the death penalty or a policy similar to apartheid, should the government feel obliged to implement such policies? If the result of an advisory referendum is bad for the country, then the elected government should exercise its discretion and follow the course of action that is best for the country.

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Exactly. Brexit will not result in greater sovereignty for the UK but a breakup of the UK, as well as possibly a partial loss of sovereignty over Gibraltar. The quitters didn’t consider any of this, despite being warned, as they dismissed every genuine warning as “project fear“.

For goodness sake NFH, can’t you see how clear it is that you are avoiding answering some very simple and straightforward questions because they embarrass you. You could not possibly answer them honestly without exposing the fact that it is anti democratic to try to overturn the result of a Referendum on which the rules were clear and deliberately unambiguous. These rules were agreed on both sides. Too many liberals have wormed their way into the Establishment already. Their tactics are always obfuscation and “lets change the question” to one that we would prefer to answer.

Where do you get your figures from concerning the turn out of the vote? It was the highest turn out ever on a vote in this country’s history. The total was around 70% of people eligible to vote. I can only assume that you have taken the numbers who voted as a percentage of the total population, including 6 month old babies. That is what a 6 month old baby would do.

Peter, it’s simple maths. Only 17,410,742 voters voted to leave out of an electorate of 46,500,001 eligible voters. So just 37.44% of the electorate voted to leave the EU. That’s not a democratic mandate for such a huge and long-lasting constitutional change.

Its simple if you want to reverse a democratic decision under the present rules, where no one is forced to vote and no threshold was set. You have to decide how to make a decision in a democracy through a voting system, and how you regard those who do not bother to vote, or are unable to. You could regard the non-voters as representative of the population as a whole. Do we have reason not to? In which case split them 50/50 between leave and remain. Or you could regard them as so confident of the outcome that they felt no need to add their voice (which outcome?). But whatever view you take, they did not add their views and we do not know what they would have voted for.

As there was no threshold given, simply a decision on the basis of a majority of those who were responsible citizens and bothered to vote, I see no reason to try to overturn their decision.

The decision to have a simple majority verdict of those who voted throughout the UK was taken by Parliament in accordance with our democratic processes. Speculating on the possible voting intentions of those who did not vote [for any number of reasons] in 2016, or who might vote differently now, and seeking to re-run the poll, is not part our democratic processes. David Cameron pledged a simple IN / OUT vote and the Conservative government was elected in the light of that commitment. Flawed though we might now consider it to be I don’t recall it being an issue of debate at the time. Au contraire, I believe its simplicity was part of its appeal possibly thereby contributing to the high turnout. I agree with Malcolm and see no reason to set the decision aside because we feel a different result might emerge now after two years of argument. In my opinion that would be an undemocratic response because a different combination of people would be voting in 2018/19 compared with the 2016 referendum, and a different combination of people would not be voting in 2018/19 compared with 2016. The population, the electorate, and the turnout, are not constants.

John, you say that “The decision to have a simple majority verdict of those who voted throughout the UK was taken by Parliament in accordance with our democratic processes“. This is untrue. The European Union Referendum Act 2015, which Parliament enacted, did not specify any threshold. The threshold of 50% of votes cast (as opposed to more appropriate thresholds such as 50% of the electorate or two thirds of votes cast) was a popular assumption that is not backed by legislation.

Phil says:
10 August 2018

“One swallow does not make a summer”; there are plenty of people who have left the SNP for the Conservative party as a result of poor performance by the SNP as the governing body in Scotland. Let me know when 500,000 have made the move to SNP and I might sit up and start to take it seriously.

Exactly, NFH. In not specifying any alternative proportion for a Referendum result Parliament left the decision on a simple majority which is the conventional democratic process in the UK.

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From when did this practice rise to 27% assuming there has been control of individuals for many years?

A few commenters are complaining that the 2016 referendum to leave the EU is invalid because less than 50% of the registered electorate voted to leave.

In the United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975 only 43% of the registered electorate voted to join.

Presumable these few commenters will accept, therefore, that as the 1976 vote was also invalid in their eyes we should never, therefore, have been members in the first place. Voting to leave now just puts that right.

Phil says:
10 August 2018

Agreed; this is our system of democracy. The last time a general election produced a result with over 50% in favour of any party was the early 1930s so we must be generally happy with the system. I think voting should be compulsory but that is an entirely different debate.

Malcolm, you have missed the point.

The UK joined the European Community in 1973. Subsequently in a referendum in 1975, 43.35% of the electorate voted to remain (to maintain the status quo) and 21.13% of the electorate voted to leave (to change the status quo).

In countries that make frequent use of referendums, a major change to the status quo often requires a super-majority of votes cast, for example 60% or two thirds. This isn’t ideal because it doesn’t take account of turnout and the thresholds are arbitrary rather than natural. The fairest and most natural super-majority threshold is 50% of the electorate.

In 1975, 21.13% of the electorate voted to change the status quo.
In 2016, 37.44% of the electorate voted to change the status quo.

In the absence of any threshold being stated in the relevant legislation, I suggest that 50% of the electorate should be required vote for a change in order for it to be executed.

NFH, it does rather seem that the criteria used depend upon what result you want to see. In the absence of a threshold for any referendum a majority of votes decides the outcome. You can’t just complain about the rules in hindsight – they need setting before the event.

It is rather academic because it is most unlikely that we will have another referendum using this sort of argument. Parliament has a vote on the final proposal, but I have no idea how they can possibly vote in a clear way when there are a number of issues in the pot – accept the proposed deal we will put to the EU, decide for no deal, what happens if parliament want to change the deal, what happens if the EU reject our proposals………….

It is a very messy business and my concern is the EU’s unhelpful stance – which may simply be a public one . I suspect realism will be going on behind the scenes but, like all negotiations, pragmatism will only become apparent at the end. However, underlying this rather hostile position (bearing in mind the EU, as a democracy, should be respecting the views of the UK people who voted to leave, it was not a government decision) is, no doubt, the fear that some other states are disillusioned with the EU and might consider following our lead unless draconian obstacles are placed in their way.

In what way is the EU’s stance unhelpful? The UK government wants to leave a club of which it is an existing member, in full knowledge that it will lose the benefits of membership by doing so. Having taken such an extraordinary decision, it is the UK government who should be bending over backwards, not the EU. It is the UK’s stance that is unhelpful – demanding the impossible based on the Leave campaign having promised the impossible. Perhaps the Leave campaign should have been more honest during campaigning.

The EU should recognise, for example, the trade that will need to continue between itself and the UK and make arrangements with us to ease that transition. Why seem to make it as difficult as possible? The government did not take an “extraordinary decision” – unless by that you mean holding a referendum in the first place, maybe not the best of decisions. It was the voters who made that decision that showed dissatisfaction with membership. That decision should be respected.

The EU is not an “exclusive club”; it is a group of states that have developed many common policies – along with us – including trade and standards. I see no reason why, when we leave, those common policies that are beneficial should not be retained by the UK. Nor do I see why we should not continue to contribute to useful EU institutions in both physical and monetary ways. Why make all this difficult instead of working with us to produce a sensible solution that benefits us both? I predict that attitude will eventually emerge.

If the UK wants to continue trading freely with the EU, then it can stay in the club. Simple solution. There has been no binding referendum to leave the EU, and therefore the UK was under no legal obligation to invoke Article 50. Stupid behaviour by a stupid government.

The UK will continue to trade with EU states when it is not “a member”. No reason at all why sensible terms that work for all states involved should not be set.

Sensible terms exist already, which are working smoothly, but the UK government is unreasonably demanding something else.

If it’s what the majority of the people who voted chose to have then by definition it cannot be an unreasonable demand.

The UK government has developed a workable policy for achieving withdrawal from the EU. It doesn’t suit everyone who wants to leave and it certainly doesn’t suit those who wish to remain but to me it seems to make the best of a very difficult situation. The European Commission is appearing to be obstructive to that and some consider that it is not showing sufficient respect for the views of one of its current members. Since the government is determined [subject to consideration in Parliament] to leave the EU with, or if necessary without, a deal then I doubt it will be paying much attention to the views of the remainers who have already had their opportunity to cast their vote.

Having noted the will of the people a lot of those who were marginal remainers have striven to pull the UK back from the brink of a catastrophe and to ensure that the desired exit from the EU will be on the best available terms. Such an outcome would not be all bad for the remainers. Persistent and extreme opposition to exit on any terms will only increase the chances of a no-deal crash-out. Negotiation is all about compromise so I hope reason and common sense will prevail.

John, I disagree with your comment “If it’s what the majority of the people who voted chose to have then by definition it cannot be an unreasonable demand“. Just because people want something does not make it reasonable. For example, if the people voted to introduce a form of apartheid, to deport all Muslims or the death penalty, that would not be reasonable.

The choice by 37.44% of the electorate to leave the EU was neither reasonable nor well-reasoned. In fact the only reasons cited were ideological, not for the good of the country.

‘m not sure if the majority of the voters want something to happen it should be unreasonable. Who is the judge who should decide what is reasonable or not? In a democracy that is for the people.

A reasonable people, and I believe we are in the UK, make reasonable judgements and it is not for a minority to tell them they are wrong. I think one issue is that people are affected in different ways by this decision, some see there own personal or business life adversely affected, some think they have a greater understanding of the issues and so their view should carry more weight. But, in the end, there is no reasonable basis to invalidate the referendum vote – no one knows how the non-voters would have voted had they been forced into it, so we have no better judgement on the will of the people than the referendum gave us.

Looks as if NFH is prepared to stay in on any terms and let unelected EU civil servants over rule every thing we have stood for in my life time. Not what I voted for when we joined.

Populism and nationalism are both very dangerous concepts. And often lead to conflict. Lessons of history have not been learnt.

In 1976 17 378 581 people voted to join the EU.

In 2016 17 410 742 people voted to leave the EU.

I wonder if they were the same 17 million + a few? 🙁

I voted to join and to remain.

Phil says:
10 August 2018

I voted not to join and to leave – at least we are consistent DerekP 🙂

Interesting figures.

The electorate percentages might show a wider margin unless turnouts have declined.

Given the population of the UK has gone up by at least ten million since 1976, the fact that those two figures are so close is astonishing.

The population growth of the UK was almost zero between 1970 and 1988. Population growth from 2008 to 2018 is greater than from 1965 to 2000!

I think the problem with this Brexit debate is that it has become a polarised discussion on the legality of the referendum, which I suggest is not the intent of the Convo. That, anyway, seems to be exhausted.

The Convo should assume our withdrawal proceeds and be looking at how best consumers’ interests are looked after. Perhaps we could return to the topic?

For example Jane said: “We want the Government to:
1.Commit to maintaining current consumer protections e.g in food safety and quality
2. Ensure the Air Transport deal includes consumer rights such as flight delay compensation
3. Urgently reform the UK product safety and consumer protection system to stop dangerous products reaching our shelves
4. Set out a timeline for Brexit and keep consumers updated on what it actually means for them
5. Provide assurances that where we align with EU, the consumer voice will be represented”

I’m sure there a more issues that affect some or all consumers

Point 2 is very valid, not least given that non-EEA Switzerland participates in EU261/2004.

Mobile roaming at domestic prices for UK-based visitors to the EEA and by EEA-based visitors to the UK should also be a priority. This requires continued regulation of wholesale prices by UK and EEA networks.

This illustrates different viewpoints. Whilst it makes sense to have consistent mobile phone charges it is not a priority for me.

I regard food safety as a priority, but I would also like to see us less dependent upon food imports and produce more ourselves, as we used to. Will it cost more? Maybe a little. Imports need to be properly labelled so we know what we are buying, and choose accordingly.

I’d like to see low-cost healthcare provided while we visit Europe and for visitors to the UK. A reciprocal arrangement, with appropriate state funding, might sort that. A suggestion has been made we could need visas to go to Europe – I hope that is fanciful but if not, what has changed in the people who will travel from those who already go?

It is possible that the UK can continue to be included in the EHIC arrangements when the future status of UK inclusion in the EEA is resolved within the terms negotiated for leaving the EU. The reciprocal health provisions are primarily an EEA scheme and several states that are not members of the EU are included. One option post-Brexit is for the UK to rejoin EFTA [European Free Trade Area].

John, you’re absolutely correct that the territorial scope of the EHIC is the EEA, which is actually the case for most EU legislation, the main exceptions being agriculture and fisheries. But the more significant point is that Switzerland, a non-EEA member, is also included in the EHIC, which sets a precedent for the UK to be included if it leaves the EEA.

Agreed, NFH. I am glad you are coming round to seeing how the general intelligence of previous Remainers is the only way to make things work for the inevitable non-EU UK while avoiding the perils of a total Brexit .

I voted to join and to remain.

Having lived through years of rationing and the horrors of a World War, I was convinced in 1976 we should join and that a democratic approach was the most sensible way forward, where important issues were aired and thrashed out by a democratically elected group of nation-state individuals and was a preferred option to bombs, shells, guns and any other destructive kind of ammunition that had the potential to physically maim and kill millions of innocent people.

For that reason, I still believe it makes more sense to be at the centre of the negotiating table, participating in and contributing to such important matters as defence, economics, immigration and trade, than to remain on the periphery and that we are infinitely stronger as a United European Nation against continuing Cold War threats from Russia and US global trade wars.

Problems arose however, when certain UK MEP representatives with radical nationalistic ideologies, unable to let go of the past, were freely allowed to deliver repeated contemptuous and vitriolic verbal attacks on other European Member States, completely unaware and oblivious to the fact they were themselves, instigating and contriving to continue to bring about the very hatred their own indoctrinated and unconscious minds were condemning in others.

I still believe we would be better off remaining as members of the EU. Geographically we are not dissimilar to Japan being an Island, vulnerably placed off the coast of a large landmass, the difference being they are currently a more independent nation, although still enjoying some protection from the US Military in Okinawa, but nevertheless, they still live in constant fear of attack from Chinese warships patrolling the South China Sea which occasionally stray into their waters and also from the recent firing of nuclear warhead missiles from North Korea in their direction.

Anyone who has been through an acrimonious divorce is all too aware it can be an extremely long and stressful process, especially when one partner is reluctant to let go – mine took all of 5 years, with much uncertainty and with very little guarantee of the outcome. The UK, being one of the major contributors to the EU has, by a small majority decided we are strong enough to go it alone, so for better or for worse we are committed to proceed along an arduous and uncertain path.

Meantime, as with all divorce and legal separation, the key is to arm yourself with and put your faith in a competent and efficient legal team to act on your behalf and in your best interests and let them get on with the job they are paid to do.

Beryl is absolutely right. It is useful to be reminded of the origins of what is now the EU, i.e. following the Second World War. There was a fantastic 10-minute point of view by Michael Morpurgo on BBC Radio 4 last Sunday, making very similar points, still available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bclyj3

Recent polls are consistently and increasingly indicating that a majority of the electorate now wants the UK to remain in the EU. The latest is a poll suggesting that “More than 100 constituencies that backed Leave in 2016 referendum would now vote Remain“.

In the first referendum in 1975, 67.23% of votes were to remain in the EU.

In the second referendum in 2016, 51.89% of votes were to leave the EU.

In a third referendum possibly in 2018, polls indicate that 53% of votes would be to remain in the EU.

The reason for a change between 2016 and 2018 is that the electorate is now more informed about the benefits of EU membership and the impact of leaving. It has also become apparent that many of the key promises made by the Leave campaign are undeliverable.

Those who wish to leave the EU repeatedly refer to the “will of the people“, yet they are referring to the historic will of the people in 2016, not in 2018. A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy. Therefore we need a third referendum in order to seek the current will of the people. If they believe so strongly in the “will of the people“, why do they object to a third referendum in 2018? Do they believe in the “will of the people” only when it aligns with their wishes?

Voting again is not without precedent. We vote every five years to see whether we still want the same party to govern again, or to kick them out and try the other lot for a bit.

Which? response to Brexit ‘No Deal’ technical notices
23 August 2018
Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive of Which?, said:

“Dominic Raab has suggested that consumers won’t notice a difference in the event of a no deal, but people will be shocked to hear about the potential consequences contained in these papers.

“It’s clear that there will be negative effects in the event of a no deal, including the risk that some people could potentially be unable to access their pensions.

“This is not an encouraging start and the Government cannot take consumer issues like this for granted. Securing a deal with the European Union is vital to ensure that Brexit delivers for consumers.”

Deal or no deal, things will change. We must be prepared for that, whether it is some inconvenience or extra cost. As far as pensions goes this could have been explained. As I understand it this concerns the legal status insurers may have when we leave, and they may not (initially) be licensed to work in the EU; so they may not legally be able to remit pension payments to UK citizens who reside elsewhere in Europe. Presumably this will work in reverse. I doubt the situation will persist.

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Phil says:
29 August 2018

It is a long established fact the UK follows all the rules while most EU members do not and this is one of the many reasons why our EU membership puts us at an economic and commercial disadvantage. The behaviour of the French boats was totally unacceptable and put lives at risk – hopefully they will get sever fines or better still a custodial sentence for it.

Barnea hates the British and for two years he has block every attempt to negotiate a trade deal using this stupid Irish boarder argument. It is plain and simple we can have the same system the swiss have or put up a hard boarder end of subject. The Northern Irish cant even talk to each other and elect a leader for there Parliament so decisions will and have to be made from central government. If they don’t like it then stop acting like stupid children throwing your toys out of your prams.
Now get on with the trade negotiations you only have 7 months to sort it out. Our boarders are closed on the March 19 that is what people voted for not for extensions and rubbish like that.
GB is riding herself of the Burocratic dictatorship from brussels from unelected Power hungry burocrats. Who the hell really cares about the 27 countries in Europe that we are tied to and supporting? Most of whom through no real fault of there own are on the bread line and that is why a lot of there citizens have come to the UK for work a free health service ( hence it is under crisis) and free schooling.
Stand back and watch the EU collapse when we leave. It will struggle keeping for a while keeping its head above water but like the Titanic it will sink with major disasters. We get rid of the radicalise EU regulations that restrict or trading with the rest of the world. The worst of which is a minimum 20% extra taxes on non EU products. Those are same restrictions that saw thousands of cattle and sheep slaughtered in mass graves because the common market did not want us to import meat from Australia and New Zealand.
Poland and Hungary have already said they want to set up trade deals with the UK forget what Brussels say. That is just the start. Italy Spain Portugal and Ireland will follow suit as well as Germany and France because they have no option but to trade with us under our terms not the EU.

How do you compare 27 EU countries against 53 members of the commonwealth who want to trade with us on a more level playing field? Who have all the raw material’s gold silver rubber and other valuable minerals and then there is all the food i.e. fruit vegetable’s meat fish spices and herbs the list is long and every thing should be a lot cheaper if the importers are stopped from hyping up the prices,There are countries around the world lining up to trade with us so who cares about those dictators in Brussels who are holding every one to ransom. Its not the UK but the EU who have screwed up the talks from day one because they will lose a great big income and that will hurt the lazy money grabbing dictators
If we are going to sink into the sea and all die which is what the remainers want you to think then why have componies like Boeing invested in a big plant in the North of England? European aero industry needs British Rolls Royce Engines and wings so there plains can fly. What are they going to do? Fold and put lots of people out of work or BY BRITISH

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