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Europe Restructured: The Eurozone Crisis and the UK Referendum

Clement Attlee called them a device alien to all our traditions…all too often seen as an instrument of Nazism and Fascism . But as former Foreign Secretary David Owen argues in the prescient pamphlet, referendums are more than that. They are also a refuge advocated when parliamentary patronage and party political whipping can no longer prevent cross-party voting challenging governmental authority, usually conceded by Governments reluctantly and sometimes used as a means of healing party division. Why used reluctantly? Because the outcome is unpredictable and they require our elected representatives to surrender their independence and democratic position. Owen argues that having established a precedent in 1975 a referendum has become the only legitimate way of making any future decisions on membership of the EU, but that is a very different thing than to say that constitutional change always requires a referendum.

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