The government asked the people’s opinion about membership of the EU in 2016 and the decision was to leave the European Union. In 2019 the question that surely must be asked is whether the Government still has valid consent for withdrawal from the EU—with or without a plan.
A great deal of new, relevant, and material information has come to light over the subsequent months and now the government must decide what to do, but I contend that the consent obtained in 2016 for leaving is no longer valid.
I’ve been a GP since 1984 and undertaken vasectomy surgery since 1990. I have gained consent for thousands of vasectomies and many other surgical procedures during that time. I have seen good practice and the law on consent evolve over the years. For much of my career the standard was the Bolam Test (1957)—giving information to patients as I deemed necessary, consistent with a body of medical opinion. In 2015 the standard changed after the Montgomery case, which brought a requirement to discuss all concerns of material interest to that particular patient. Lately we are now also ensuring that the patient has had sufficient time to reflect between learning relevant information and deciding to proceed with the planned procedure—a cooling off period.
If a patient of mine consented to undergo a surgical procedure in 2016 and new information of great significance to the individual had become available, I would be in breach of both medical ethics and the law on consent if I did not seek a new permission to proceed.
MPs have a similar duty of care for the people they represent. They must act with integrity in the best interests of those people. The people have a presumed capacity to consent (to understand and retain, evaluate and weigh evidence and communicate their decision) and their decision deserves respect.
The people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have a right to be asked for consent again in the light of all that we have learned about the operation that is mandated in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of Lisbon) 2009.
It is professionally, legally, and morally wrong to proceed with any action which fundamentally changes our relationship with the European Union unless new consent is sought.
It’s time for a second referendum.
Peter Bailey is a locum General Practitioner in Cambridge.
Competing interests: None declared.