Let the peo­ple judge whether a Brexit deal is fit for pur­pose

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

As mem­bers of the le­gal pro­fes­sion we act for peo­ple, busi­nesses and in­sti­tu­tions across the length and breadth of the UK. Our clients and the law are pro­foundly af­fected by the terms of the UK’s re­la­tion­ship with Europe. We sup­port a Peo­ple’s Vote on the out­come of the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions for two main rea­sons.

First, demo­cratic gov­ern­ment is not frozen in time. Par­lia­men­tary sovereignty means that to­day’s par­lia­ment can­not bind to­mor­row’s par­lia­ment. Nor can yes­ter­day’s ref­er­en­dum bind us to­day.

In 1975, a ref­er­en­dum was held af­ter a rene­go­ti­a­tion of the UK’s ac­ces­sion to the Com­mon Mar­ket. The UK voted 67% in favour. In 2016, vot­ers were closely di­vided (52% voted leave), and dif­fer­ent parts of the UK voted dif­fer­ently. When break­ing down the regis­tered vote, 37% voted leave, 35% voted re­main, and 28% did not vote. Ma­jori­ties in Eng­land and Wales voted leave; ma­jori­ties in Scot­land, North­ern Ire­land, and Gi­bral­tar voted re­main. Ad­di­tion­ally, there are se­ri­ous ques­tions about the va­lid­ity of the 2016 vote. But the re­al­ity is that nei­ther of those past votes binds us to­day.

Sec­ond, vot­ers are en­ti­tled to know what they are vot­ing for. There was a key dif­fer­ence be­tween 1975 and 2016. The ear­lier ref­er­en­dum was held af­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions were com­plete, so vot­ers knew what they were vot­ing for. In 2016, the na­ture of the ne­go­ti­a­tion process and its out­come were un­known. Vot­ers faced a choice be­tween a known re­al­ity and an un­known al­ter­na­tive. In the cam­paign, untestable claims took the place of facts and re­al­ity.

When ne­go­ti­a­tions con­clude, the terms of exit will be known. Vot­ers should then have a say on whether to exit on those terms – just as a home buyer may re­con­sider an of­fer af­ter re­ceiv­ing the sur­vey, and a pa­tient must be in­formed of risks be­fore con­sent­ing to surgery.

The mean­ing of such an in­formed vote will be clear to all and can help rec­on­cile vot­ers on all sides to the fi­nal de­ci­sion.

A Peo­ple’s Vote is the most cred­i­ble and demo­cratic way to en­sure the le­git­i­macy of a de­ci­sion that will pro­foundly im­pact gen­er­a­tions to come.

He­lena Kennedy QC, Philippe Sands QC, He­len Mount­field QC, Kon­rad Schie­mann For­mer judge, court of ap­peal, and Euro­pean court of jus­tice, David Ed­ward

For­mer judge, Court of Jus­tice of the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ties, John Davies Chair­man, UKLe­galFu­ture, Jonathan

Cooper Lawyers for a Peo­ple’s Vote,

Felic­ity Wil­liams Lawyers Against Brexit, Shoaib M Khan Hu­man rights lawyer, SMK Law Solic­i­tors, Su­san D

Shaw Manag­ing part­ner, Liv­ing Law, Scot­land and more than 1,500 oth­ers

(see gu.com/let­ters)

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