In comments on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the media the great EU Referendum is almost always presented as a "first past the post" electoral victory so we must obey the "will of the people" because that is "democracy". From time to time, lone voices like mine pop up to remind people that it is not now, and never was, a binding, decision making vote, but an advisory referendum. That is, presumably the Government (another misused word which has become almost meaningless and an embarrassment) would look at what the voters said, and work out what to do about it. Maybe some new policies, maybe nothing, maybe more investigation.
Those Brexiteers whose minds were and are already made up, and genuine enquirers who simply don't know, challenge the notion that the referendum was advice seeking. I show below the relevant paragraph from the briefing paper prepared by the House of Commons Library and dated 3 June 2015 (see photo above) - a whole year before the actual referendum took place.
One of the failures of both Government and media around the referendum was that this adisory aspect of the electorate voicing an opinion was, to my knowledge, never mentioned and certainly not emphasised. Why the Government ignored it we cannot say, the media are more understandable in that they gain readers and viewers by peddling controversy and strong opinions. There are no sales to be had from "balance" or truth.
So, the fact that those who voted, only a part of the population, were pretty evenly divided about remaining in or leaving the EU has been totally ignored by the House of Commons and the media and the excess of leave voters over remain voters (about 1¼ million people) is taken to represent the will of the whole. Anything less "democratic" one can scarcely imagine.
Credit, however, must go to the House of Lords, where the whole thing was thoroughly aired and who demonstrated that there are intelligent, caring people at Westminster even though they are not allowed to have much say in what happens to us all.