Taking Back Control? Appeals to the People in the Aftermath of the UK’s Referendum on EU Membership

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On 23 June 2016 the British people voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union, dividing the country. While the way forward is still unclear, this contribution lays out the legal framework surrounding the referendum and analyses appeals to the people in the immediate aftermath of the outcome. The article discusses the UK’s less-than-clear-cut ‘constitutional requirements’ for the purposes of activating the withdrawal process under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and the extent of executive or parliamentary approval needed. An original content analysis of the first speeches of political leaders as the referendum result became clear reveals intriguing contradictions, lending weight to the view that this was a Pyrrhic victory for the leaders of the Leave campaign who wanted to ‘Take Back Control’. Paradoxically, the ensuing loss of power in leaving the EU may turn out to be entirely at odds with what voters intended. Given the false and misleading claims made during the demagogic campaign, the article also outlines some proposals for the conduct of future referenda.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2016

Cite this