Five Questions on Brexit to LAURENT PECH

  1. What were your thoughts when you first heard of the result of the referendum?

I first heard of the result after waking up at 2.30am to check the preliminary results in a number of constituencies. I had previously read that if Remain were not clearly ahead by then it would mean a victory for Leave. I must say I expected a narrow victory for Remain and was therefore fairly surprised by the outcome considering what most polls had predicted shortly before the vote. I immediately started cogitating about the legal problems that would follow from the vote.

  1. Could an exit of the UK result in changes to the constitutional setup of the European Union, for better or worse?

This is a rather difficult question to answer in a few words. I personally do not expect any change to the present constitutional arrangements of the EU. If anything, the ‘British question’ will occupy EU policy-makers for the foreseeable future and I see no appetite whatsoever for Treaty change. What we might see instead is radical changes to the constitutional setup of the UK.

  1. What does the referendum teach us about the merits and limits of direct democracy?

There is ample scholarship on the limits if not perils of direct democracy when citizens to are asked to decide complex policy choices in the absence of a clear understanding of the available options and potential consequences of their vote. I worked in Ireland at the time of the Lisbon 1 and 2 referenda and I clearly remember a study, published post Lisbon 1, which showed that a significant proportion of the electorate who voted against the Lisbon Treaty were not apparently able to answer four basic questions about the EU such as whether Switzerland was a member. I have since read that following today’s result, many people based in the UK have been using Google to ask ‘what is the EU’ ...

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