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Dan Boucher

Dr Dan Boucher stood as a Welsh Conservative European Parliament candidate in the 2014 elections.

The suggestion made in the last few days that there should be another referendum, subject to additional hurdles above and beyond simply winning the argument with a majority – as per the EU Referendum Act 2015 – is simply not credible.

The opportunity presented itself to make the case for these changes when the Referendum Bill went through its Committee and Report Stages in the Commons and in the Lords, but the insertion of additional hurdles was not the will of Parliament.

Indeed, although Parliament chose to insert additional hurdles to the 1979 devolution referendums in Scotland and Wales, they have not obtained in referendums since.

Some people have responded to calls for a second referendum in the last few days with some alternative petitions that have expressed their disdain for the suggestion of a second referendum rather well. My favourite has to be the petition calling for a re-run of the battle of Hastings because the signatories did not like the 1066 outcome. It would be good to give Harold a second chance!

There are, however, some serious points from our more recent history to be made here.

In Wales we have experienced rather more referenda than most parts of England: 1979, 1997 and 2011 on devolution and 2011 on the Alternative Vote and 2016 on the EU referendum.

Apart from the EU referendum our most important referendum took place in 1997. This vote was much closer than that on 23 June. The yes camp took 50.3 per cent of the vote, the no camp 49.7 per cent.

The winning side won, therefore, by a majority of just 0.6 per cent or just over 7,000 votes.

The winning ‘UK margin’ for Leave in Thursday’s referendum was, at 3.8 per cent, more than six times that of the Assembly referendum. The winning ‘Wales margin’ for Leave was, at five per cent, more than eight times that of the Assembly referendum.

Some might seek to suggest that this is not relevant because the issues were less important.

They were certainly less important for people who did not live in Wales but for those of us living here they were very far reaching – rather than ending a 43 year old arrangement, the Wales referendum ended the unitary state relationship between England and Wales which had lasted for 456 years.

On the morning of 19 September 1997 when the Yes Camp was celebrating their victory, it would have been easy for the No Camp to call for a second referendum.

The much slimmer margin of victory and the fact that voter turnout was significantly less, at just over 50 per cent, provided better grounds for doing so than in relation to Thursday’s referendum.

The truth is, however, that while the 1997 Welsh Referendum provided a better case for a second referendum than that of 23 June 2016, neither provides a case for doing so. When you have an election or referendum the rules have to be drawn up in advance and you cannot suggest that they are re-written and the election repeated just because you don’t like the outcome.

The No Camp in Wales understood that in 1997 and the Remain Camp needs to understand it in 2016. Wales had to come together again as a nation again after 17 September 1997 and the no camp had to accept the decision and move on.

It is true that on the doorstep one still encounters a significant number of people who deeply regret the decision but we have survived. Indeed, many no campaigners went on to become Assembly Members.

107 comments for: Dan Boucher: Welsh experience shows why calls to re-run the EU vote are nonsense

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