The Government is in Catch 22 and meanwhile the nation is going rapidly downhill.
The Government made a 2015 manifesto pledge to have a referendum on whether to stay in or leave the EU, and to 'respect the outcome'.
The Government won the election and put a Bill before Parliament for a non-binding referendum. Being non-binding, there was no need to define a majority or supermajority; had the vote been binding, a majority or supermajority definition would clearly have been required. Had this issue been debated, it can be argued that a supermajority of 60 or 66% might have been considered appropriate for a major constitutional change. But no such debate took place, as the vote was not intended to be binding.
The Bill simply said: there will be a referendum, and the choices will be 'Remain in the EU' or 'Leave the EU'. Since the vote was to be a consultation, there was no need to make the choices more detailed, precise or sophisticated. There was just a simple question: Would you wish to stay in the EU or not?
In early 2016 the Government announced that they will not just "respect the outcome", but will "implement the result". This created a wholly new context. The precise meaning of the very simple and loose consultative question "Do you want to Leave the EU?" now become very important, since it had to be "implemented".
"Leave the EU" means.....well, actually 10 or 100 different things, as has become very clear. Leave the EU - regardless of the consequences? Leave the EU - once you have established acceptable alternatives? Leave the EU - at some point in the future if it doesn't reform itself to our satisfaction...? Even three options - Hard, Soft or None might have been acceptable, if a precise definition of each option had been given on the ballot paper.
"Leave the EU" was clearly not acceptable as a ballot paper option for a binding vote to "implement" specific action. It was meaningless, and that is the main reason for the resultant chaos and division in this now internationally pitied and even internationally despised country of ours.
It is being questioned in current legal actions whether the Government had the authority to make a promise in their pre-vote leaflet to "implement what you decide" without indicating that this would require the consent of Parliament. If this was a false promise, those who voted Leave will not be happy. Nor will the rest of the nation who are witnessing economic and social turmoil.
In the absence of any defined majority, how could "...what you decide" be determined?
The UK needs either: A submission of the entire issue to Parliament for a debate and free vote; Or a second referendum with clearly defined options and consequences and factual public information upon which to make a vote provided by an independent impartial committee set up by the Government. And we need it NOW.