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UK Government minister says Brexit vote ‘probably should have been a supermajority’

23 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Northern Ireland Office minister Steve Baker. Photo Niall Carson/PA Wire

A Government minister has expressed regret that the Brexit referendum did not require a supermajority to pass.

Northern Ireland Office minister and leading Brexiteer Steve Baker made the comments as he suggested that a “50% plus one” majority would not be advisable for a vote on Irish unification.

The 2016 vote on leaving the European Union passed with a roughly 52%-48% split.

On Monday, Mr Baker told the 65th plenary of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) that the referendum “probably should have been a supermajority” of at least 60%.

Mr Baker, who was a strident supporter of withdrawing from the European Union, acknowledged the referendum would have failed under such a supermajority.

However, he said such a threshold would have removed the difficulty of politicians not accepting the result.

The Northern Ireland minister made the remarks during a question-and-answer session of the assembly at the K Club in Co Kildare, Ireland.

Regrets

He was responding to a question about whether he had any regrets from the Brexit campaign.

Mr Baker said: “One regret is it probably should have been a supermajority.

“That’s a huge thing for me to say, because if it had been a supermajority we’d have lost and we’d still be in.

“But the reason I say that is if we’d had to have 60%, everybody would have abided by the result.

“If it had been a 60-40 result, it’s inconceivable to me that we would have had all of the political difficulty which followed from Members of Parliament in particular refusing to accept the result.”

Expressing his personal view on the matter, the Northern Ireland minister then cautioned against a “50% plus one” result in any potential Irish unification vote.

He asked: “Would anyone here seriously want a 50% plus one United Ireland result in Northern Ireland?”

After some politicians indicated “yes”, Mr Baker warned them of the “trouble” caused by the simple majority caused in the Brexit referendum.

He said: “Just reflect on the trouble we had from running a 50% plus one referendum in the United Kingdom and ask yourself whether you really want that trouble in Northern Ireland – and I don’t.”

In a later statement, Mr Baker added: “The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is clear that any change to the constitutional position of Northern Ireland would require the consent of a majority of its people.

“In accordance with the Principle of Consent, Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK for as long as its people wish for it to be.

“We are absolutely clear that there is no basis to suggest that a majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to separate from the United Kingdom.”

Last year, Mr Baker apologised for his former “ferocious” stance on negotiations with the EU which he said did not always encourage Ireland to trust the UK government.

Ireland’s finance minister Michael McGrath told the BIPA event on Monday that London-Dublin links were “back on a positive trajectory”.


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Sally-Anne
Sally-Anne
6 months ago

One more time: IT WAS A NON-LGALLY BINDING REFERENDUMN. It clearly stated that the result would not indicate that we would leave in the future…Its only because Cameron was scared by the Putin-Backed Leavers, like Boris “The Kremlin’s Favourite Son” Johnson into accepting the vote as legally binding.

BREXIT WAS AND REMAINS A CON! We should never have left the EU.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
6 months ago
Reply to  Sally-Anne

A binding referendum prohibits lying to the electorate. Those found to have misled the public are culpable in law. THIS is why they made it advisory. They also denied voting rights to three separate groups. The young. In Scotland and Wales voting at 16 was permitted. These were denied for Brexit (because Tories feared they would vote Remain) Expats (because Tories feared they would vote Remain) Resident rights (overseas citizens resident in the UK) (because the Tories feared they would vote Remain) Then acted on it as quick as they possibly could whilst everyone was still angry and confused. They… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Sarah Good
karl
karl
6 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

Don’t forget they voted on the white paper to trigger article 50, before anyone in the chamber could read it. An early page of that paper, even pointed out sovereignty was never lost

Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
6 months ago

It should have required a two thirds absolute majority of the total electorate eligible to vote. That is usual in most countries for a change to the constitution. Brexit was in effect a change in the constitution of the UK. I still cannot understand why both sides and the BBC kept stressing that it was a large majority in favour when it was no such thing. Anyway the idiot Cameron as well as destroying his own mediocre career has ensured the continued economic decline of the UK into total irrelevance on the world stage. In addition it means that the… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
6 months ago

Hang on, “hard man of Brexit” baker?
One of the people responsible for the absolute mess the UK is in?
Has the penny dropped with him?

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
6 months ago

Oh, so now he’s changed his tune after being one of the most ardent believers in Brexit. It is too damn now the country has taken a hit! We all knew the vote was highjacked by extremists and should not have been implemented, that there should have been a super majority (as in other countries) vote for any decision to leave. If anything he, and his fellow nutters, should be behind bars for the mess they’ve left the country in.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
6 months ago

Sly snakin’ Steve safe in the knowledge that his 52-48 has worked for him can say anything he wants about Break- it now especially as expressing false regret can help him towards scuppering Irish reunification. What ‘fair’ figure should we expect from him? 99.9% maybe? If he thinks he can get away with it, he’ll try. Dream on dreamer!

karl
karl
6 months ago

What a hypocrite, hewas happy enough to role with the result and even insult us for not following the lies.

John
John
6 months ago

His memory is very selective. Johnson made all MPs support Brexit and got rid of anyone who didn’t. So he’s talking nonsense as usual for an ERG Brexiter. He was happy enough with the referendum result, he just wishes to now load the dice against a unification vote. He has no shame.

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
6 months ago

Thanks fella . Thats a really helpful comment. The whole UK governance needs to change. Firstly by introducing a Proportional Representation voting system.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
6 months ago

Isn’t hindsight wonderful?

Andrew
Andrew
5 months ago

I’m all for changing the referendum to a super majority. If we had this in place from the start, obviously there would be no Brexit but also no Welsh Government with devolved powers. Out of the two referendums, Brexit had a higher percentage vote than devolution. We could reverse two really dumb decisions and hand the power back to Westminster.

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