Technically, yes. Referendums in the UK aren’t legally binding, meaning they are advisory rather than mandatory, reports the Financial Times.
So, no matter what the country decides, the government has the power to ignore the will of the people. But will they?
Obviously, it depends on the result.
But it has happened before.
In Sweden, in 1955, they held a referendum asking the country if they wanted to change the side of the road that they drove on.
At the time, Sweden, like the UK, drove on the left. But, unlike the UK, they shared borders with Finland and Norway who drove on the other side.
It also must have made driving across the border somewhat confusing.
However, despite the deaths and many other convincing arguments to start driving on the right like their neighbours, when the country held a referendum, 83 per cent of Swedes voted to keep driving on the left.
But their government ignored them. They changed sides anyway. Because they’d looked at the facts as they saw them and believed going against the people would be best for the people.
So there is a precedent for a Western democracy ignoring a landslide referendum to push through huge changes against the will of the people. Legally, there is nothing stopping Westminster following in the Swedes’ footsteps and ignoring a referendum result that they don’t like.
However, the British government is seriously split on what they want this result to be.
Ignoring the result, even if it’s a very close result, could tear the Conservatives apart from the inside. There would almost certainly be protests and faith in politicians (not exactly riding high at the moment) would plummet.
However the EU Referendum plays out, in the UK, at least 40 per cent of the country is going to be disappointed. But if the government decides to ignore the result then they could enrage everyone.