I ALWAYS thought that in the UK we were governed by a parliamentary democracy, where we elect a representative to debate in the House of Commons and vote on our behalf.

Our democracy doesn’t operate by individual voters voting on every issue. I have therefore been puzzled about the role of a referendum in our parliamentary democracy.

The result of the EU Referendum was hailed as a mandate for a particular course of action. But was it a mandate to act?

I read the European Union Referendum Act 2015. It’s all about the process – the wording of the question, the time frame, returning officers, announcing the result etc. Nowhere does it say what is to be done once the result is known.

We were asked for our opinion about EU membership on a particular day in 2016. The result of that question did not in law bind anyone to any particular course of action.

Once there was a majority vote to leave, the democratic course of action would have been to set up a working party to consider the complexities and consequences of us leaving the EU. The findings would then have been debated in parliament, followed by a second referendum based on real information and not political spin, with a clear instruction on what action parliament should take.

But it’s all happening backwards. The government made the decision to trigger Article 50, parliamentary debate is happening afterwards, and the complexities and consequences of dealing with over 40 years of laws, regulations and directives are now coming to light. All within an impossible two-year deadline.

If this country is now to be run by plebiscite rather than by parliament, at least on the issue of our membership of the EU, then the Tory party doesn’t have the authority to act alone, having secured 43 per cent of the vote in the last general election, a smaller percentage than those who voted to remain in the EU. They need to act in the interests of the country instead of their narrow political ambitions.

Theresa May must call a halt, allow a cross party committee consultation period, followed by parliamentary debate, and then a second referendum when everyone has a much better idea of what leaving the EU will mean in practice. If the answer is still to leave we’ll have a democratically formulated set of proposals to start our negotiations with.

Rosemary Lewes