October 22, 2019 - 12:42pm

Yesterday, the BBC’s John Simpson relieved himself of a tweet:

OK, let’s think this one through. First of all, what does he mean by a change to the rules? Presumably not just any change to any law or regulation. It would have to be something big and more-or-less permanent. A second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU would certainly count. But what would be the change to which the two-thirds threshold applied to? Would the super-majority be required to over-turn the result of the first referendum or would it be to approve the deal to take Britain out of the UK? That decision, whether taken by the Government, Parliament or our judicial masters, would most likely pre-determine the outcome of the referendum.

Does John Simpson also propose that his idea apply to any future referendum on Scottish independence? What if 65% of Scots vote to breakaway, thus narrowly missing the two-thirds threshold? How does he think that might work out?

Another scenario: the blocking tactics succeed and Brexit is somehow cancelled. The EU continues down the path to integration – requiring new treaties at least as significant as Maastricht or Lisbon. Does Simpson think that these rule changes should be subject to a two-thirds referendum, not only in Britain, but all the other member states? If so, how does he envisage any European treaty being approved ever again?

Also, should a two-thirds rule apply to significant legislation in Parliament – or is it just a simple majority of us mere voters that isn’t good enough? If voters are allowed to elect dominant governments that enact multiple major reforms as in 1945, 1979 or 1997 why can’t we be trusted when it comes to referenda?

Now that BBC journalists share their opinions with us and not just the news, perhaps they could explain them more fully.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.