WHEN the German student told Dorothy Gunther that such a referendum as we’ve had would never have been allowed in Germany, they were explaining that federal plebiscites are outlawed under the German constitution.

They do often have regional and state referendums which are either volksbergen (people’s request), volksbefragung (people’s inquiry) or volksentscheid (people’s decision).

This choice means that this is no ambiguity about the status of the referendum result. I agree with Dorothy that, if possible, David Cameron’s pledge should be honoured, but what, how and when would have had to be made clear under the German system before voting.

The student’s remark that it would be too dangerous is a reference to Hitler having held six referendums including, in 1933, to leave the League of Nations (including the Disarmament Conference) and in 1934, on Bismark’s death, to combine the positions of chancellor and president to become fuhrer.

This made Margaret Thatcher, quoting Clement Attlee, call referendums “a splendid weapon for demagogues” and like him never call one.r

Dorothy’s response that the United Kingdom has "never backed off dangerous decisions" could have come from Basil Fawlty or Captain Mainwaring and could possibly have perplexed someone from a country that had recently decided to take in over a million Syrian refugees.

Finally, Dorothy says that a solution is surely not beyond the wit of Parliament and I would like to hear her solution.

I think it is clearly beyond any perfect outcome. My own 'least-worst solution' would be to hold another referendum, but not to allow OAPs like me to vote, despite possessing what Dorothy very dubiously calls “common sense in abundance".

Colin Macarthur

Callender Street