I can see a very strong case for a referendum with the aim of giving the British government a direct mandate to negotiate repatriation of powers, but it is equally possible to argue that this mandate would already have been given by virtue of the policy being included in a party election manifesto.
David Davis takes this argument one stage further in an article for the Daily Mail this morning, in which he proposes a double referendum - one to give a mandate and then one to approve what has been achieved by the negotiators. It's an interesting proposal, but perhaps it comes a bit late. You can't hope to influence a decision on the day it is announced. He writes...
What we should do is, in my view, clear. We should have a referendum, not on the treaty, but on the negotiating mandate that the British Government takes to the European Union.
This has many virtues. It allows the British people to express their view on the future of their nation. Most of all, it gives the Government a formidable negotiating weapon.
Referendums terrify the European Commission and the political elites who run Europe. They are clear statements of the popular will. They force issues to be stated in clear and unambiguous terms. They are impossible to ignore.