A petition calling for a second EU referendum has reached over a million signatures, attracting the biggest surge of support Parliament’s website has ever seen.
The author of the petition, William Oliver Healey, says the Government should re-stage the referendum because the winning vote for Leave was less than 60 per cent and was based on a turnout of less than 75 per cent.
But could this actually happen?
Professor Vernon Bogdanor, one of Britain’s foremost constitutional experts said a second referendum is “highly unlikely”.
He told The Telegraph: “I don’t think the EU will wish to bargain any further, they will take this vote as final.”
Prof Bogdanor, an expert in constitutional history at King’s College London who was David Cameron’s tutor at Oxford, warned that Governments will be “very careful” about calling for referendums in the future.
Is the referendum legally binding?
This is because parliament is sovereign and referendums are generally not binding in the UK.
Had the 2011 referendum on changing the electoral system to alternative vote been successful, the Government would have been obliged to change the law. However, no such provision was contained within the EU referendum legislation.
What is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and why is it important?
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states: “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”.
Mr Cameron can decide when to invoke Article 50, which is the formal notification to the EU of Britain’s decision to leave. He could still decide to ignore the vote and refuse to invoke it. However, in practise, this is very unlikely.
He has said in the past that he would have to trigger it immediately after a vote for Leave, although he could have been speaking figuratively to emphasise that the referendum was final.
On Saturday, the EU founding states called on Britain to “urgently” trigger Article 50 and begin the process of departure.
When will Britain actually leave the EU?
Prof Bogdanor said that Article 50 is “deliberately designed to make it difficult to leave. The balance of power is with the other 27 member states.”
He went on: “There are up to two years to negotiate. Unless there is unanimity, they can say ‘these are our terms, take it or leave it’.”
Senior EU officials have already said they want Britain to leave as soon as possible.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, said “it doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try to negotiate the terms of their departure”.
In an interview with Germany’s ARD television station, he added: “I would like to get started immediately.”
Will Britain ever be able to re-join the EU?
Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty deals with the procedure for any countries wanting to join the EU, whether they have previously been members or not.
It says that if a European state is committed to promoting the values of “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights” then it may apply to become a member of the Union.
Following an application, the European Council would have to unanimously agree to Britain re-joining, after consulting with the Commission and receiving assent of the European Parliament. The decision would then need to be ratified by all member states.