The Department for Exiting the EU has said in response to the petition to revoke Article 50 that :

“17.4 million people then voted to leave the European Union, providing the biggest democratic mandate for any course of action ever directed at UK government,”

How was the size of the mandate determined?

  • 4
    That was the number of people who voted Leave in the EU referendum. Is that what you were asking?
    – Alex
    Mar 27, 2019 at 13:29
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    If you win, your mandate is overwhelming. If you lose, the opposition has a marginal mandate.
    – Jontia
    Mar 27, 2019 at 13:43
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about language not politics.
    – gerrit
    Mar 27, 2019 at 14:57
  • 8
    @gerrit - I think the way governments use language is very much about politics, and there are some great questions on SE Politics about what politicians might have meant - including your Reagan question of Oct 25 '17. Mar 27, 2019 at 16:06
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    @Jontia Or more precisely: if you win x votes to y, your mandate is x; if you lose that way, the opposition has mandate x-y.
    – J.G.
    Mar 27, 2019 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


This sentence simply means that of all the three referenda ever held in the United Kingdom, the one about Brexit was the one with the most votes for a single option. Note that the 1975 referendum to join the EU had 17,378,581 people who voted 'Yes'/'Join', only about 30,000 less than the 17,410,742 who voted to 'Leave' in the last referendum. If you look at the relative results (compared to 40 million registered voters in 1975 vs. 51 million in 2016), it's arguably a smaller mandate; in 1975, 43% of the people who could vote voted 'Yes', while the Brexit mandate is only 34%.


By the number of people who voted for it (17.4 million).

This referendum had one of the biggest ever turnouts of the electorate (72.2% of the eligible voters voted) and the Leave campaign won. As the turnout was so high, the winning side can be said to have a clear direction or mandate provided by the vote as to what action should be taken.

  • 26
    The mandate being clear would not only need a high turnout, but also a clear majority for something. As is blatantly obvious, while there was barely no majority for status quo, the rest is too splintered and gave far too many, sometimes impossible, and frequently clashing promises. Mar 27, 2019 at 13:38
  • @Deduplicator Surely the people's mandate is the leave vote is it not? There is no possibility for the winning side to not consist of a clear majority either way: it was a yes/no question. The splintering came later when people had to figure out how to do what was mandated of them.
    – slebetman
    Mar 28, 2019 at 9:03

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