The enormity of the referendum result for Brexit is only now starting to sink in to the British people. A Brexit would have enormous long term impact on the UK. And many people are now asking "Can Brexit be stopped?" and Can the UK remain in the European Union? There are three main possibilities. A legal one, a political one, and an EU one.
The legal argument against a Brexit
First of all, the referendum is not binding on the UK government. It's merely advisory. A Brexit would represent a major constitutional change for the UK. It could even lead to the break up of the UK. The consensus among many lawyers is that as #Parliament is sovereign, it is Parliament which must make the final decision.
The political chances of stopping a Brexit
Many people claim now that that untruths were told by the Leave campaigners. As the full facts were not known they now have "buyers remorse.' However, distortion, misrepresentation of the facts, or even outright lying is so common at election times that it's practically standard behaviour. It doesn't mean the result is invalid or void. Elections always operate under the adage "buyer beware."
The majority for a Brexit is very small. And the conditions for a clear outcome could have been made more stringent. But the UK #Prime Minister and Parliament did not specify any requirement other than a simply majority. And the Brexit majority is still a majority, even if only a very small one.
Britain's two main political parties are currently in turmoil. New alignments and policy statements may emerge, and also a new party. The Liberal Democrats as pro-Remain could see a sudden growth in popularity. However, all this has yet to work itself out and so the effects on the Brexit issue are at present uncertain.
Could the Scottish Government prevent a Brexit?
It might be seen as unfair for the UK to proceed with a Brexit which drags along an unwilling Scotland. But the Scottish Assembly is a devolved Parliament within the UK with power to make law in certain specified areas only. It is not a sovereign Parliament by itself. So the Scottish Government has no authority to prevent a Brexit.
Can Parliament prevent a Brexit?
In Britain Parliament is sovereign and has the last word. If the majority of the nation's MPs consider a "Brexit" not to be in the best interests of the country, and refuse to approve the invoking of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to trigger a withdrawal from the EU, then no Brexit can occur.
There would be a political price to pay for MPs and parties for this. But that's another story. Invoking Article 50 would also affect the 1972 European Communities Act, which provides for EU treaties to have effect in UK domestic law. So it's down to Parliament to pass a new law to repeal this act.
Could a future Second Referendum stop a Brexit?
It can be argued the electorate should have a chance to vote on the proposals that would follow a Brexit. But again, a second referendum can also be considered as advisory, unless the government were to specify otherwise in advance, as it did for the Referendum on Scottish Independence.
The EU position on Brexit
For now, the attitude of the EU to the UK's proposed Brexit is hard-line. There will be no negotiations before Article 50 is invoked and no compromise on the terms of a future deal. But things could change. Elections are due next year in Germany and France. Dissent towards the EU is rising in many countries. If a week, as Harold Wilson once said, is a long time in politics, then a year is an age in politics. And a lot can happen to Brexit in that time.