Voting in European Union referendums: A Neighbour’s Experience

Graham Butler

PhD Fellow, Centre for Comparative and European Constitutional Studies, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


Referendums on European Union (EU)-related issues have occurred in a number of Member States since the foundation of the project, and may be considered highly salient in value in the eyes of voters. While political events such as referendums on EU questions have not featured prominently for the United Kingdom in the recent past, for the first time in decades, before the end of 2017, the United Kingdom will vote on a referendum with options of either remaining in the EU, or choosing to voluntarily leave. This second referendum on the EU, after the previous ballot in 1975, can be traced in numerous political variables. The evolving nature of the EU from the initial internal market, to being a more encompassing actor covering a wider breath of public policies, linked with the rise of popular Euroscepticism, has led to increased scenarios where referendums are availed of in many Member States. This short post looks at some of the experiences that the closest geographical and most closely related neighbouring state to the United Kingdom, has in holding referendums on EU questions. From a legal and political perspective, Ireland offers many lessons and learning outcomes on what the United Kingdom will face, given the Irish familiarity and understanding of referendums on questions of EU nature.

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