When news came out last week that UK voters chose to leave the European Union, it was presented by the news media that it was a done deal. The United Kingdom would invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon and within two years, would be out of the EU. Except that’s not correct.
The referendum itself was advisory, rather than legally binding, and nothing was legally set in motion as a result of the vote.
Theoretically, the government could ignore the result, although doing so would presumably prompt an angry reaction from the 52% of Brits who voted to leave.
“The referendum doesn’t itself trigger Brexit,” said Kenneth Armstrong, professor of European law at the University of Cambridge. “It still requires the decision of a government.”
This scenario certainly makes more sense. Being that the Brexit vote wasn’t legally binding, the outcome didn’t really matter.
If something like this had taken place in the United States and the outcome was not in sync with the will of the elite, it would have been blocked by the courts. The votes would have been repeatedly recounted and reasons would have been concocted up to disallow certain votes. Something like Brexit would never happen in the United States. The elites in power would never allow anything substantive be decided by a popular vote.