Sir, Martin Hewes (Letters, November 14) is right that the Brexit vote has created a constitutional difficulty, but the difficulty is not what he seems to think it is. The difficulty is both created and concealed by the illusion, now pretty well universal, and shared by Mr Hewes, that 52 per cent of the British people have voted to leave the EU. But the 17m who voted that way were only about 28 per cent of the population of the UK. The remaining 72 per cent either voted against, or chose or were obliged (principally because of age restrictions) to leave the decision to others more competent.

Should 28 per cent be entitled to compel 72 per cent to do what they want? That is the real constitutional issue. The 17m represented no one other than themselves. The members of the House of Commons represent all 64m of us, whether voters or not. If it is true that 70 per cent of MPs disagree with the referendum vote for Leave, they have every right to feel they more truly represent the views and interests of the country than participants in a referendum, a device that has no standing in Britain’s unwritten constitution and which, incidentally, “mandated” no one to do anything.

Nicholas Boyle

Emeritus Schröder Professor of German, University of Cambridge, UK

Letters in response to this letter:

What abstention means / From Jason Streets

Labour represented just 23 per cent of us in 1997 / From Robert Z Brooke

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