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UK Referendum on EU membership has no legal mandate

By Luc Chome in Brussels ( Updated: 2016-07-08 20:38

An interesting fact about the UK referendum is not that it rallied a majority of voters in favor of Leave, but that it has been interpreted as a de facto Brexit. It should not be. Emotions carried people away and casual observers believe it is over: "The UK is out". But it is not.

The cold reality is that the referendum carried political weight but no legal mandate.

The big red button of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has not been pushed yet.

Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned.

The two main parties that ruled the UK for over 60 years are in disarray.

The EU, fighting internal contradictions between member states, is in no position to demand urgent activation of the Leave procedure, despite attempts by France's President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Brexit is a scare word that, at the moment, hasn't changed a thing, except people's perception of reality.

Constructivists claim that international relations are constructed by social interactions.

There is no set destiny, nor an inevitable path. In the current situation, whether the UK is actually going to leave or not is very much up to British society and politicians.

Technically, all options are open. Reality is under construction. At the end of the day, Leavers will win if their perception of reality prevails.

The political aftermath in the UK is a battleground where Leavers and Brexiters should now debate on how they can find a better place for the Brits in Europe.

Those who want to remain can fight for this. There will be plenty of time to do so in the next few years, as the Brexit is not going to happen for quite a while.

If they win, that would be another stone in the European garden as parties all over Europe will have good grounds to say, again, that the EU is undemocratic.

When 52% of the voters say they want to leave, it may be that they want jobs, access to quality public services, less inequality, and that they want to be heard when they say migrants from inside the EU have taken their jobs (although immigration actually brought wealth to the UK, but that's an average).

If politicians want to tackle these real issues, Brexit may go down in history as just a bad hiccup.

One has to wonder who is going to lead the UK for at least two years only to see herself or himself conduct tedious and, at best, tit-for-tat negotiations with the rest of the EU. What political gain is there in governing a country where at least 50% of the people are, from the start, against the reason why you are in office, i.e. Leave?

Neither Boris Johnson --whose Shakespearian ploy may be a clever calculation to preserve his political future-- nor Nigel Farage, who both quit the battlefield, saw that as a gain.

And one can doubt that anyone on the Labour or the Conservatives side will be happy to trigger that Article 50 button, a decision that would divide the kingdom and cause great turmoil in Scotland and beyond.

One way out of the current muddle is a general election that would reshuffle the cards and give a clear mandate on a potential Brexit.

Whoever campaigns to Leave will have a clear mandate in case of victory. Whoever runs and wins to Remain will know exactly what to do, i.e. stay in the EU but better listen to the needs of 52% of the population of the United Kingdom. But is this in the interest of the Tories, whose seats are provided by voters who turned out to be mainly Leavers?

Luc Chome is a communications executive based in Brussels. The views expressed here are his own.

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