UK government might need further democratic ‘mandate’ for new EU deal

31 January 2017 9:55am

22 July 2016. By Sille Ruubel.

The UK prime minister might need “democratic endorsement” to pursue a new deal with the EU, a former senior government official has said. Charles Falconer, a senior lawyer who served in Tony Blair’s cabinet, stopped short of saying whether that backing should come from Parliament or a second referendum, but suggested there should be a “mandate.”

On June 23, UK citizens voted to leave the European Union. But to actually trigger the formal withdrawal, the country needs to hand in an Article 50 notice to Brussels.

Who has the authority — the prime minister or Parliament — to invoke that withdrawal has drawn much debate over the past month, and the first civil lawsuits against the government on the matter have reached the High Court.

“It’s only an advisory referendum,” said Falconer, a member of the House of Lords who until recently was senior justice adviser in the opposition Labour Party’s shadow cabinet.

He described it as “an effective instruction to the politicians who now start negotiating our way out of the EU,” he told a seminar in London this week.*

There’d be no need for any further mandate, if in a final deal “we will have absolute control over immigration, second, if we get into the single market on identical terms than at present, and, three, we have to make no contribution to the EU budget.”

“But the further away we get from those three paradigms, the more there needs to be some democratic endorsement, not just of our negotiating position,” but also on the final deal with the EU, he said.

“There needs to be some sense [that] what the prime minister is doing has the approval of the country over the negotiation position she has taken up, and then when she gets a [deal],” Falconer said.

“Because otherwise the whole nature of where we end up over our relations with the EU and in relation to other countries, will be determined without any mandate whatsoever.”

“There has to be this sense that the negotiations that were done, were done with support of the nation,” he said.

* “Brexit and the UK Constitution,” Brick Court Chambers, London, July 21, 2016

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