This weekend, randomly-selected voters will meet to discuss the biggest constitutional question of our time. People want to be informed—and if politicians listen in, they could learn something tooby Darren Hughes / September 8, 2017 / Leave a comment
It is rare that something can bring together political figures as divergent as Stronger In chief Will Straw and Ukip’s Suzanne Evans, Remain’s Chuka Umunna and Labour Leave’s John Mills. It’s rarer still for them to come together on the issue of Brexit.
The referendum last June decided that the UK will leave the European Union. But debates since have given voters little opportunity to develop—never mind express—clear views on the form they want Brexit to take.
On the other side of the equation are the politicians. The EU barely came up in June’s election, yet parties are trying to speak with total authority on major constitutional and economic questions.
As we move forward, politicians and negotiators need insight into where public priorities really lie. Without clear signals from voters, it is a guessing game for all involved. Polls can offer some help—but it is worth looking for other solutions, too.
What is beginning to unite these two sides—the need for citizens to become fully informed about the options on the table, and the need to politicians to have a clear view on what voters really want—is a new approach.
This weekend, citizens from across the UK are gathering in Manchester to take part in the first “Citizens’ Assembly” on Brexit, in a bid to put voters’ voices at the centre of the EU debate.
The Assembly brings together a randomly selected group of people designed to be broadly representative of the country, to learn about the options for Brexit, discuss their own priorities, hopes and fears—and make recommendations for what Brexit should look like. It has secured high-profile backing from across the so-called “Brexit divide.
Citizens’ Assemblies are not a new way of settling big questions—they are being used across Europe and North America to formulate proposals on key policy and constitutional issues often associated with referendums. Ireland’s Constitutional Convention, based on the citizens’ assembly model, recently led the way towards the legalisation of same-sex marriage.