inc Explanatory Note 5

(5) Referendums  Constitutionalists believe that referendums have a place in participative representative democracy but their role is to complement it, not replace it. Their link to democratic legitimacy is tenuous and heavily conditioned.  Far more than primary legislation (law created through delegation by the legislative branch of government), the outcome of a yes/no referendum leaves the content of the decision underdetermined, particularly when the question put to the people, as in the case of the EU referendum, affects an array of interconnected issues of law and policy. In most liberal democracies the use of referendums is strictly regulated by a codified constitution that restricts the types of question that can be asked and the conditions under which they have a binding legal effect. The UK’s uncodified constitution lacks this robust constitutional architecture. The experience of the EU referendum is another blow to the argument that the UK has no need for a codified constitution.