MPs should “vote with their conscience” in parliament on new laws relating to Brexit “irrespective of the views of their constituents”, a top lawyer has said.
Geoffrey Robertson QC told The Independent the lack of a clear plan from Theresa May’s government meant the Brexit debate was far from finished.
The founder of the Doughty Street Chambers said the UK cannot leave the European Union until the 1972 European Communities Act is repealed, which requires a vote in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
And the longer Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and Brexit Secretary David Davis – nicknamed the ‘three Brexiteers’ – stall over setting out their intentions, the more likely these votes are to be anti-Brexit, or even call for a second referendum, he said.
“The failure of the three Brexiteers to produce anything like a satisfactory solution makes you think that if the [parliamentary] vote were taken now, there would be a decision to remain or a decision to have another plebiscite,” said Mr Robertson.
“MPs are bound to follow their conscience and to vote for what they understand to be the public good, irrespective of the views of their constituents.”
“I would encourage MPs to vote with their conscience; it's their duty,” said the lawyer. “That's how we abolished the death penalty.”
Mr Robertson’s comments come as former Chancellor Ken Clarke called the EU referendum a “bizarre protest vote” and said Theresa May does not have “the first idea” what to do next about Brexit.
The Conservative politician and Remain campaigner told the New Statesman he would vote against the referendum result in parliament.
“The idea that I’m suddenly going to change my lifelong opinions about the national interest and regard myself as instructed to vote in parliament on the basis of an opinion poll is laughable,” he said.
“Nobody in the government has the first idea of what they're going to do next on the Brexit front.”
Nicky Morgan, the former Education Secretary, has warned Theresa May she is allowing others to set the terms of Brexit and said the Prime Minister must be clearer on what she wants from any deal.
Ms Morgan said that instead of leaving it to cabinet Brexiteers, Ms May should herself lead policy on the European Union and set out a broad plan as early as next week.
“There is a danger. At the moment, there has been a lack of a plan from our Government about the negotiating, the process, what’s going to happen, what we’re going to ask for,” she told the BBC.
“The longer that gap is left, the more likely it is that, as we are beginning to see, people are taking up positions, whether it’s a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit."
Ms Morgan added: “There is a danger that we will start finding ourselves, the Government will find itself, in a position where other people are setting the terms of the debate.”
Yesterday, a senior judge ordered the Government to reveal its 'secret' legal arguments about how parliament does not have to be consulted on when to trigger Article 50.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Cranston ruled that prior to a hearing of a case from the crowd funded initiative People’s Challenge on 13 October, the Government must publish its previously undisclosed legal arguments about why Article 50 can be triggered without parliamentary assent.
As a majority of MPs backed Remain, some anti-Brexit campaigners believe their vote could enable them to stall or entirely cancel Brexit.
The decision has been heralded as the first major victory in a series of legal challenges trying to block the result of the EU referendum from taking place.
Brexit negotiations could cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds due to the need to hire more than 500 extra civil servants, and through valuable time wasted by “a lack of clarity about roles and responsibility of the new departments,” according to a report by the Institute for Government.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
The report said there is a “gaping void in the government negotiating strategy” and warned that “in the absence of a clear plan, Kremlinology and off the cuff remarks are filling the void”.
“Theresa May has had the misfortune of taking over at the most impossible time," Mr Clarke told the New Statesman.
"She faces an appalling problem of trying to get these ‘Three Brexiteers’ to agree with each other, and putting together a coherent policy which a united cabinet can present to a waiting parliament and public," he said.
“Because nobody has the foggiest notion of what they want us to do.”Reuse content