Campaigners call for referendum to trigger Brexit
Publish date: 13 March 2018
Issue Number: 4418
Diary: Legalbrief Today
The law requires a further referendum before Brexit can go ahead, say campaigners who are mounting a legal challenge to halt the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. A report in The Independent notes that the case will argue that the 2011 ‘referendum lock’ introduced by David Cameron – preventing any significant change to relations with the EU without the public’s say – applies to the Brexit talks. It makes the negotiations illegal without a second referendum because the planned transition period is likely to mean a big transfer of powers to Brussels, according to the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group. The stance has drawn support from Dominic Grieve, the former Conservative Attorney-General, who said: ‘This raises an important constitutional issue. Parliament provided for a referendum mechanism in the 2011 Act to ensure the public should be consulted on any significant EU treaty change. The terms of our departure and of transition are going to have major implications on our constitutional framework as and when they come into force.’ The legal challenge will raise the hopes of pro-EU supporters of a referendum on Theresa May’s deal from the negotiations – now backed by both John Major and Tony Blair. The EU Withdrawal Bill, currently before Parliament, will scrap the 2011 Act – but until it does, the case will argue, the UK is negotiating a deal with the EU under existing British law.