I am pleased to be a signatory to the following letter, which is published in today’s edition of The Times. The letter argues that it would be clearly unconstitutional for the Government to attempt to veto Brexit-related (or indeed any) legislation by advising the Queen to withhold Royal Assent.

Sir —

We write to express our profound dismay at recent suggestions that it may be legitimate for the Government to advise the Queen to refuse Royal Assent to legislation on Brexit passed in opposition to the Government’s wishes. Such an action would be utterly without precedent in the United Kingdom: assent has not been refused for over 300 years, and our view is that any such advice would be unconstitutional. As Parliament’s website states, ‘The Queen’s agreement to give her assent to a Bill is a formality.’ It has been suggested that, despite the fact that Royal Assent has not been withheld since 1708, it would be legitimate for the Queen to refuse it, provided that Ministers so advised. However, once a Bill has been passed by Parliament the Queen’s role is purely ceremonial. And this is for good reason. Any attempt to advise refusal of Royal Assent to a Bill passed by Parliament would stand constitutional principle on its head. It would presume a governmental power to override Parliament, yet it is in Parliament, not the Executive, that sovereignty resides. It would also give rise to a conflict between Parliament and Government into which the Queen would inescapably be drawn, compromising her position above political controversy. Given that Brexit is the most politically explosive and divisive issue of our day, the notion of involving the Queen in vetoing a Brexit Bill ought to be regarded as inconceivable.


Professor Paul Craig, Professor of English Law, University of Oxford
Professor Brice Dickson, Professor of International and Comparative Law, Queen’s University Belfast
Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Anniversary Chair in Law, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Mark Elliott, Professor of Public Law, University of Cambridge
Tom Hickman QC, Blackstone Chambers
Professor David Howarth, Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Cambridge
Professor Jeff King, Professor of Law, UCL
Professor Andrew Le Sueur, Professor of Constitutional Justice, University of Essex
Professor Roger Masterman, Professor of Law, Durham University
Professor Christopher McCrudden, Professor of Human Rights & Equality Law, Queen’s University Belfast
Professor Aileen McHarg, Professor of Public Law, Strathclyde University
Professor Colm O’Cinneide, Professor of Constitutional and Human Rights law, UCL
Lord Pannick QC, Blackstone Chambers
Professor Gavin Phillipson, Professor of Public Law and Human Rights, University of Bristol
Professor Tom Poole, Professor of Law, LSE
Professor Tony Prosser, Professor of Public Law, University of Bristol
Dinah Rose QC, Blackstone Chambers
Professor Meg Russell, Director, Constitution Unit, UCL
Professor Maurice Sunkin QC (Hon), Professor of Law, University of Essex
Professor Robert Thomas, Professor of Public Law, University of Manchester
Dr Hannah White, Deputy Director, Institute for Government