Courts grant Judicial Review of Government’s

broken referendum promise


Businessman Stuart Wheeler won the first stage of his campaign at the High Court on 2nd May, 2008, to challenge the Government on its refusal to hold a referendum on the EU Treaty of Lisbon.  The Hon. Mr Justice Owen ruled that there was an “arguable” case and granted judicial review.  The hearing will be the judicial review itself and if the courts were to rule against the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, they could instruct the Government to put a new bill before Parliament which provides for a referendum. 


Wheeler’s barrister, Rabinder Singh, QC, who had put together a very well prepared Claim, argued that the Government had promised a referendum on the EU Constitution and that his client therefore had a “legitimate expectation” that he should be able to vote on the Lisbon Treaty – which is virtually identical.


Reflecting on the Government’s stance that the Lisbon Treaty is completely different to the EU Constitution, Mr Justice Owen noted that “it is plainly arguable that there is no material difference between their provisions.” He said: “The obligation to hold the promised referendum cannot be avoided simply by the fact that it now bears a different name.”


The House of Lords is due to vote on the referendum issue on 11th June and the Irish (mandatory) referendum is expected to take place the following day on 12th June.  With Stuart Wheeler’s judicial review taking place on 9th and 10th June, that week will mark a climax in the campaign which could decide whether or not the Government is halted, or merely slowed down, in its disregard for the true democratic process and the People in respect of this huge constitutional issue.


Stuart Wheeler has commented that: “It is quite likely, like the first hearing which was to decide whether I should have a judicial review, judgment will be reserved, i.e. the judges will need some time to think about things and [we will] get their decision later. Even if I win the whole case including appeals, that does not, from a strictly legal point of view, prevent ratification of the treaty.  There could even be a referendum in which the vote goes decisively against ratification and as a matter of pure law, the Government could probably still go ahead and ratify it.  Politically I believe that even this Government would be unable to do that.”


The climate of public opinion could prove to be a crucial factor in this issue and it may be that a deeper and wider constitutional action will have to be launched if the political elite are to be brought to observe our great foundational statute laws still in force and which remain in conflict with all five EU treaties since 1972.

On 20th May the Speaker of the House of Commons decided to make an intervention in the judicial review.


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