12:46, March 15 36 0 theguardian.com

2019-03-15 12:46:04
Truth and transparency needed over Brexit

Your editorial (15 March) demands that as we move forward to resolve the Brexit crisis we “use evidence [and] examine facts”. Many will share that stance, and agree that “facts” require honest examination. On that basis questions must be asked about the EU referendum itself and what to do next.

It is already established that the leave campaign overspent in the critical last days before the vote, and (as reported by Carole Cadwalladr among others) that many questions are still to be asked about the origins of that overspend. These are evidence-based matters that continue to vex many remainers and fair-minded Brexiteers.

While it is indeed critical to move forward, it is also essential to be clear about what has already happened. Democracy depends on transparency and truth. Despite our political leaders’ determined efforts to gloss over, and refuse to confront, the serious irregularities of the 2016 referendum, it is clear that the future of the UK (and of Europe itself) cannot be built on the shifting sands of deception.

The enforcement agencies must now move rapidly to disclose what they know, and to take appropriate action on it; and a public inquiry must also now be established to examine the 2016 irregularities and breaches of the law.

Most specifically, did the illegal leave money distort the vote? Did the prime minister know about the leave campaign irregularities before she triggered article 50? And, if so, what significance does this fact have for us now?

Hilary Burrage

London

The question raised of the Brexit secretary in the House of Commons on Tuesday by Jacob Rees-Mogg on “how article 62 of the Vienna convention could be used” to enable a unilateral exit by the UK of the Northern Irish backstop (May’s final warning to Tory rebels: back me or lose Brexit, 14 March) has already been clearly answered in the House of Commons research briefing paper (number 08463) published on 21 December 2018.

In that paper MPs were told that article 62 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), which enables a party to terminate or suspend the operation of a treaty where there has been a “fundamental change of circumstances”, can only be relied on in very limited circumstances. The UK would have obvious difficulties trying to rely on article 62 to get out of the backstop because “crucially, a continuation of the backstop would not be a fundamental change of circumstances within the meaning of the VCLT”.

That analysis is both legally correct and should be clear enough for even the most confused of our current MPs to understand. Attempts to rely on article 62 would be doomed to failure.

Michael McParland QC

Barrister, and author of the The Rome I Regulation on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations (Oxford University Press, 2015)

How far does the Guardian carry a responsibility for mediation and reconciliation (May’s final warning to Tory rebels: back me or lose Brexit, 14 March)? Its dramatic language when reporting on Thursday’s votes – “humiliated” (a matter of opinion, she just looked ill to me); “Party split exposed” (some years ago); “defiant reply” etc – only serves to exasperate and not heal the Brexit angst.

Whatever your view on the UK leaving the EU, there’s not a single individual who can reconcile our irreconcilable views, so John Crace’s character assassination of May is childish (Sketch, 15 March). Neither will any outcome make it all go away.

I don’t think the Guardian would be going beyond its remit in lobbying politicians to attend citizens’ assemblies, guided by experts in psychology and kenosis (be they counsellors, teachers or Quaker elders) to help us listen, be heard and resolve to act for the common good, even where our definitions of it seem diametrically opposite.

Libby Ruffle

Waldringfield, Suffolk

Having been defeated twice by thumping majorities, Mrs May now seeks to bring her identical Brexit proposal back for a third roll of the dice. Yet if we the people ask for a second referendum it is a “betrayal”. Why the double standard?

Richard Dawkins

Oxford

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