‘The will of the people’ is a largely rhetorical device | Letters


Jonathan Freedland points out that people may have reassessed their Brexit preferences in the light of current knowledge and prospects (The ‘will of the people’ wasn’t fixed for all time in 2016, 26 January). But “the will of the people” is also a largely rhetorical device and not a premise on which to justify Brexit at all costs. After all, fewer than two-fifths (37.5%) of the eligible electorate voted to leave the EU. If “will” is defined as an intention to act, then it is reflected by the 62.5% who did not vote for change.

Theresa May fears a breakdown in social cohesion if leave voters are frustrated, implying that these voters pose the greatest threat to cohesion. Yet leaving will frustrate the much larger set who did not vote to leave. Research shows that it was not just distrust of the EU, but of our own politicians, that motivated many leave voters. That trust needs to be rebuilt by focusing on the longer-term social and economic future of the UK.

Whatever the short-term risks to their reputations or seats, MPs’ own choices in the forthcoming weeks should be guided by rationality and genuinely knowledgable advice rather than political expedience.
Dominic Abrams
Professor of social psychology, University of Kent

Everyone seems to have forgotten that aspects of the referendum vote remain under scrutiny. How can such a fundamental decision as to whether to leave the EU or not continue in the light of even the smallest chance that the vote was manipulated?
Sheila Twidle
Littleton-upon-Severn, Gloucestershire

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