The legality of the Brexit poll matters. The organisers of Vote Leave have been accused of fraud, of thieving personal files, and using billionaire cash to corrupt democracy, says Ewan McGaughey, lecturer in private law at King’s College and research associate at the University of Cambridge.
“If the evidence proves true, this enables, one, a judicial declaration that the Brexit referendum is void; two, notification under article 50 to be nullified; and three, parliament to take back control,” he explains.
Vote Leave targeted people based on individual psychological profiles, and, according to evidence heard by a House of Commons committee, those profiles were built through Facebook and other data without consent or knowledge of UK voters. The data was sold to Aggregate IQ, which was hired by Vote Leave to target UK voters.
“They used the most psychologically manipulative technology known, exceeding spending limits in the process,” McGaughey says.
He adds, “We cannot know the causative impact that the alleged spending fraud of Vote Leave had. In law, that uncertainty is even more of a reason that the referendum is void. Overspending not only changed the result on the balance of probabilities: it materially increased the risk of a corrupt vote.”
Parliament must deliberate whether we want to redo the first referendum, until technology is made safe for democracy, he says. We must uphold the rule of law. Our integrity is not for sale.