‘Brexit’ may need a second referendum and Parliamentary approval in order to go ahead, the former Clerk of the House of Commons has said.
Lord Lisvane, one of the most authoritative constitutional experts in the country, said that it would be rational for MPs and peers to be consulted once an exit deal was hammered out between the Government and the EU.
The peer, who spent 40 years working in the Commons, also said that a second referendum may be required in order to give political effect to whatever London had agreed with Brussels.
And he suggested that so-called Article 50 ‘notification’ - the formal process of pulling out of the European Union - could be rescinded or withdrawn at a future date if the country decided to change its mind.
Lord Lisvane said that if the Brexit package proved to be inadequate or unacceptable, the decision could even be decided ultimately by the European Court of Justice.
Speaking to Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster, the former Clerk of the Commons set out what would happen once a deal was eventually agreed with Brussels over Brexit.
“What sort of package will emerge? Will it be a good package? Will it be OK, so-so? Or will it actually, despite our best efforts, be pretty disastrous?
“Whatever it is and that might be two years or more down the track, it really makes sense to say to the country and to Parliament ‘do you reallywant to leave on these terms?’”
And when asked if that implied a further, second referendum, he said: “It could do because we’ve embarked on this road because of the decision of the people in a referendum.
“Once you’ve done that I don’t think it makes sense then to cut the population out of the further steps down the road.”
The peer, who was one of the stars of the BBC’s ‘Inside the Commons’ programme last year, ridiculed the idea put forward by former Chancellor and leading Brexiter Lord Lawson, that MPs could swiftly pass an Act of Parliament before Christmas to get out of the EU.
“With all due respect to Lord Lawson that would be mad,” he said.
“Because the European Communities Act 1972 was the vehicle for giving effect in our domestic law to our treaty obligations.
“Now if you just repealed it, it wouldn’t take us out of the European Union but what it would do would mean that that huge mass of secondary legislation which over the years has been made under it would become ineffective.”
He said that leaving the EU was such a complicated process affecting all areas of policy that a simple repeal was not practically feasible.
“Now some of the rights that have been acquired in that way would not be lost because that is what the law says but really you’ve got to tackle the thing in in a much more systematic and methodical way because right across the piece we’re talking about agriculture, construction and use regulations, health and safety, employment law and all the rest of it.
“And there will need to be a very careful process of deciding which bits we want to keep as a national decision and which bits acquired through the operation of the European Communities and then the European Union we no longer want to keep. But you can’t do it in a big bang”.
But Lord Lisvane was dismissive of suggestions by some that the next Prime Minister - who will be either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom - will not be able to ‘trigger’ Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without prior approval of Parliament.
“Article 50 is a Prerogative Act that means something that ministers can do in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative,” he said.
“Now I’ve spent 44 years in the palace of Westminster and I’m no great friend of exercising the Royal Prerogative without parliamentary approval, but I’m very sure that this is the formal case.
“And indeed it was interesting when the European Communities Bill was debated in 1972 it was a point made by the chair of Ways and Means before the Committee stage that the European Communities Bill was not something that took us into the Community.
“So repealing it does not take us out. Repealing it would stop the mechanism that over the years has allowed the transposition of European policies and law into our domestic laws”