What did EU poll teach us? MPs ask

The British parliament is asking for views on ‘lessons learned from the EU referendum’ – this comes as MPs prepare to debate whether there should be a second one due to the small margin of the ‘Leave’ win.

Anyone may send in a written response to the enquiry, which ends on September 5 and seeks to ask ‘what can be learned for future referendums’. Visit this website to take part.

It invites views on matters like what legal status referendums should have and how they should relate to the normal process of parliamentary democracy, whether they should have to reach a minimum percentage threshold to take effect, problems that arose in running the referendum, and whether the government planned adequately to deal with the outcome of it.

This comes as MPs are set to debate a petition about holding a second referendum on the enquiry’s closing day at 16.30, with the debate to be opened by Ian Blackford of the SNP (a party which backed Remain and represents most of the Scottish constituencies, which all voted Remain). It will be possible to watch it live here.

Parliament agreed to a debate after a petition gained more than four million signatures. It calls for a rule that if the winning side in the EU referendum gains less than 60% of signatures and turnout is less than 75% then a second referendum should be held. The referendum was won by ‘Leave’ by 52% to 48% and the turnout was 71.8%.

In fact the petition was launched before the referendum was held, by a Leave supporter concerned over the possibility of a Remain win by a small margin. It was then massively picked up by Remain supporters disappointed with the outcome. One of the leaders of the Leave campaign, Ukip's Nigel Farage, had previously said he would fight for a second referendum in the event of a small win by Remain. He told the Mirror in May: “In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way.”

It is however uncertain whether the petition – which now effectively calls for a retrospective rule change – will be taken seriously. Nonetheless the debate will represent an opportunity for MPs to discuss the referendum – a chance which should be seized, according to the chairman of the British Community Committee of France, Christopher Chantrey, who is suggesting people write to their MPs with their views on what needs to be raised.

He said: “I think any opportunity to have the injustice of not being able to vote in the referendum mentioned again in parliament, and the non-arrival of the Votes For Life Bill [a Conservative manifesto promise to abolish the 15-year limit on expat voting], make the 4-million signature debate a good subject for us. The debate will also call attention to our messy constitutional arrangements under which we can hold referendums with un-thought-through rules.

“If we have to have referendums on major constitutional questions - I would prefer to stick to plain parliamentary democracy, but with everybody having the right to vote, and not have referendums at all – then the threshold to trigger change should be higher than a first-past-the-post simple majority, for example 60% or two-thirds.”

The Chairman of Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats, George Cunningham, said: "We should make most of the petitions debate firstly to show clearly that the June 23 referendum did not reflect the will of the people because of the level of misinformation which was rarely challenged by the media in particular.

"This is important to demonstrate to MPs that they should not feel they are going against the will of the people by voting against initiating Article 50 if - which I think is likely - it is up to parliament to have the final say.

"Secondly, we should promote a second referendum when Brexit negotiations have finished, allowing the British people to decide whether to accept the negotiated Brexit deal or remain in the EU."