Hundreds of barristers have warned Prime Minister David Cameron that last month’s vote to leave the European Union is not legally binding, according to a Sky news report.
The result of the 23 June referendum is only “advisory” and the Government should launch an independent investigation into the benefits, risks and costs of Brexit before making plans.
More than 1,000 of the barristers signed a letter to Mr Cameron saying that primary legislation will be needed before Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which covers how EU members can leave – can be put into use.
The barristers say there is evidence that the referendum result “was influenced by misrepresentations of fact and promises that could not be delivered”.
They added: “Since the result was only narrowly in favour of Brexit, it cannot be discounted that the misrepresentations and promises were a decisive or contributory factor in the result.”
The referendum did not set a threshold necessary to leave the EU, unlike many other important polls, “presumably because the result was only advisory”, they said.
There are also questions as to the negotiating position of the UK after the triggering of Article 50, what happens if an agreement is not reached within the two-year limit, or the “emerging reality” that Article 50 negotiations will deal only with how the UK leaves the bloc, rather than any future economic relationships.
Because of these questions, the barristers say an investigation should take place “as a matter of urgency” to report back before the Parliamentary vote takes place.
Philip Kolvin QC, who co-ordinated the writing of the letter, 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 fulfil the responsibility placed upon them.”
Aidan O’Neill, a constitutional and EU law specialist who also signed the letter, said: “The Brexit referendum has made clear that the UK is not a united nation-state, but a divided state of nations.
“But it has given no mandate or guidance as to what our nations’ future relationship might be with Europe, and with each other.”
He added: “Precipitate or unilateral action by the UK Government to trigger Article 50 will simply further divide us.”