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Britain can't leave the EU without MPs voting for it, top lawyers say

27th June 2016

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The country may just have voted 52% in favour of leaving the EU, but Brexit won’t become a reality unless voted for by members of Parliament, according to Geoffrey Robertson QC.

The lawyer, who set up Doughty Street Chambers, says the referendum was “purely advisory”, and his sentiments have been echoed by Charles Flint QC in a letter to the Times.

“Under our constitution, speaking as a constitutional lawyer, sovereignty rests in what we call the Queen in parliament,” Robertson told The Independent.

“It’s the right of MPs alone to make or break laws, and the peers to block them. So there’s no force whatsoever in the referendum result. It’s entirely for MPs to decide.”

Young anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at the gates of Downing Street
(Isabel Infantes/PA)

The much spoken about Article 50, the mechanism by which an EU member can leave the union, says a state can only leave the EU “in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”.

“Our most fundamental constitutional requirement is that the decision must be taken by parliament. It will require a bill,” said Robertson.

“MPs will have to do their duty to vote according to conscience and vote for what’s best for Britain. It’s a matter for their consciences. They have got to behave courageously and conscientiously.

“Democracy in Britain doesn’t mean majority rule. It’s not the tyranny of the majority or the tyranny of the mob … it’s the representatives of the people, not the people themselves, who vote for them,” he said.

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