Westminster’s Professor of Politics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Graham Smith is Co-Investigator on the project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) UK in a Changing Europe programme.
The aim of the project is to ensure that citizens’ voices are heard in the process of Britain leaving the EU. It is the first example of meaningful public deliberation around the form that Brexit should take. Citizens engaged in detailed, reflective and informed discussions with the aim of reaching well thought-out recommendations. The Assembly provides a unique and innovative approach to gauging informed public opinion.
After hearing from a range of experts, and from politicians from both sides of the Brexit divide, they took four key votes:
- On trade with the EU members voted for a bespoke trade deal ahead of staying in the Single Market. But should that prove impossible, their preference was to stay in the Single Market rather than agree no deal at all.
- On trade outside the EU members preferred a bespoke customs deal, allowing the UK to strike its own international trade deals but maintain frictionless borders. If that can’t be achieved they would opt to remain in the Customs Union rather than do no deal.
- On immigration, Assembly Members were offered five options, of which retaining free movement, but with the government making full use of existing controls, won a clear majority of the vote.
- On the overall deal with the EU, Assembly Members preferred a comprehensive trade deal combined with favourable access for EU citizens. If such a deal proves unattainable, they again wanted the UK to stay in the Single Market rather than do no deal.
Led by the Constitution Unit at University College London, the project team also included the University of Southampton and the civil society organisations the Electoral Reform Society and Involve. The Assembly included a representative body of UK citizens.