A thousand barristers say parliament should decide whether the UK should leave the European Union

More than 1,000 barristers have signed a letter to the prime minister urging him to allow parliament to decide whether the UK should leave the European Union. In the letter, they say the referendum result is only advisory because it is based on “misrepresentations of fact and promises that could not be delivered”.

The barristers argue that there must be a free vote in parliament before article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty can be triggered. Article 50 is the clause of the treaty that has to be invoked for a country to leave the EU.

The initiative has been coordinated by prominent barristers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland including more than 100 QCs.

The letter states: “The referendum did not set a threshold necessary to leave the EU, commonly adopted in polls of national importance, eg, 60 per cent of those voting or 40 per cent of the electorate. This is presumably because the result was only advisory.

“The outcome of the exit process will affect a generation of people who were not old enough to vote in the referendum. The positions of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar require special consideration, since their populations did not vote to leave the EU.

“The parliamentary vote should take place with a greater understanding as to the economic consequences of Brexit, as businesses and investors in the UK start to react to the outcome of the referendum.

“For all of these reasons, it is proposed that the government establishes, as a matter of urgency, a royal commission or an equivalent independent body to receive evidence and report, within a short, fixed timescale, on the benefits, costs and risks of triggering article 50 to the UK as a whole, and to all of its constituent populations. The parliamentary vote should not take place until the commission has reported.”

Philip Kolvin QC, who coordinated this action, said: “Parliament is sovereign and the guardian of our democracy. MPs are elected to exercise their best judgment on the basis of objective evidence, to safeguard the interests of the country and their constituents for this and future generations. At this time of profound constitutional, political and possibly social and economic crisis, we look to them to fulfill the responsibility placed upon them.”

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