Assessing the Democratic Legitimacy of the 2016 Brexit Referendum
DCU Brexit Institute - Working Paper N.12 - 2018
21 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 28, 2018
This contribution addresses the input legitimacy of the British EU membership referendum of June 2016. It considers who was given a vote in the first place, and whether those given a vote could make a reasonable choice in light of the campaign. More precisely, it assesses the following four criteria: the franchise, the presence of clarity, the amount and quality of information, and the quality of public debate, arguing that instances of direct democracy, such as referendums, require higher standards of civic behaviour from both elected representatives and voters than those required of representative democracy. The empirical analysis of these criteria shows that the referendum fell short regarding the first two criteria whilst it could have done better as regards the last two. The paper concludes by briefly discussing what can be learnt from this referendum for future referendums.
Keywords: Brexit, democratic legitimacy, European Union, input legitimacy, referendum
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