EU referendum – the people spoke. Although not with one voice.

When the dust settled a week ago, the press was quick to tell us what happened.

the country voted with its heart‘ (Mirror)

Britain backs Brexit‘ (Telegraph)

Britain votes to leave EU‘ (Independent)

the UK voted to leave‘ (Huffington Post)

Except that neither ‘the UK’, ‘the country’, nor ‘Britain’ did anything of the kind. The Leave side won a relatively small majority (51.9%) of those who voted. However, not everyone voted. Here’s the full voting figures for the UK and for Cornwall.

UK Cornwall
Leave 17,410,742 182,665
Remain 16,141,241 140,540
Didn’t vote 12,949,258 96,533

EU referendum vote

So in the UK only 37.4%, or just over one in three voted for Brexit. ‘The UK’, ‘the country’ and ‘Britain’ turn out in practice to comprise just over one in three of the electorate. Even in Cornwall, a majority of the electorate was not in favour of leaving: 43.5% voted for Brexit, 33.5% to stay and 23.0% weren’t bothered either way.

Of course, turnout is irrelevant to the result and those who didn’t vote – a massive 64% of the 18-24 year olds who we were told were apparently so keen to stay in the EU incidentally – are ignored. The Leave camp won, and those calling for a re-run are mistaken; this would set a very dangerous precedent for the future.

On the other hand, democratic elections have rules and rules can vary from one election to the next. For instance, in 1979 the UK Government demanded that 40% of Scottish electors had to vote for devolution for it to happen. It didn’t as in the event the 51.6% who voted for devolution (very close to the 51.9% for Brexit) did not reach the 40% threshold and had to wait 20 years.

And just last month the Government pushed through its Trade Union Act. This makes strikes in ‘important public services’ which include the NHS, schools, fire services and transport, illegal unless 40% of those eligible to vote in a strike ballot vote for the strike.

Under those rules the 37.4% who voted for Brexit would have been insufficient to trigger such a far-reaching constitutional change. Given these precedents, it was perfectly possible for Parliament to have insisted on similar rules for such an important vote as the one last week. But apparently, for the Tories, membership of the EU was less important that either Scottish devolution in 1979 or strikes in public services. Or maybe the metropolitan Establishment was just so arrogantly and mistakenly cocksure it would win a Remain vote the thought never crossed its mind.

Anyway, here’s the results by constituency in Cornwall (excluding postal votes which may mean the Leave vote is understated). By the way, the report online in the Cornish Guardian has the wrong figures for Camborne-Redruth, exaggerating the Leave vote by 10,000. It seems that west Cornwall was a little less keen on Brexit than east.

Leave (%) Remain (%)
Truro & Falmouth 47 53
St Ives 54 46
Camborne-Redruth 56 44
South East Cornwall 58 42
North Cornwall 60 40
St Austell & Newquay 62 38
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