Significant High Court Decision on Justiciability of a Referendum on Lisbon Treaty

Stuart Wheeler has lost a High Court case in his bid for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Two judges rejected the millionaire’s claim that there was a “legitimate expectation” of a public vote. The Beeb summarizes the decision well, the Guardian has the key findings of the case, and Bailii has the entire decision. It has quite a style of cause: The Queen (on the application of Wheeler) v. Office of the Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Speaker of the House of Commons

Here is the conclusion:

For the reasons we have given, we are satisfied that the claim lacks substantive merit and should be dismissed. Even if we had taken a different view of the substance of the case, in the exercise of the court’s discretion we would have declined to grant any relief, having regard in particular to the fact that Parliament has addressed the question whether there should be a referendum and, in passing the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, has decided against one.

At a late stage in the proceedings, a few days before we expected to hand down judgment, we were informed by the Treasury Solicitor that, following Royal Assent to the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, the government “is now proceeding to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon”. We were concerned that the government might be intending to pre-judge or pre-empt the decision of the court by ratifying the treaty while the lawfulness of doing so without a referendum was still in issue before the court. The Prime Minister, however, acted promptly to remove our concern by making clear that ratification would not take place before the judgment was handed down.

In the event, the decision of the court is itself clear. We have found nothing in the claimant’s case to cast doubt on the lawfulness of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty without a referendum.

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