No guessing what today’s top story is, both in mainstream media and social media, with all sorts of diverse opinions being offered. Despite being riveted to this story, these past more weeks than I can recall, it isn’t the American presidential election, and neither is it the latest worrying development in Syria or Iraq or any other number of “hot spots” around the world (although it should be).
I am talking about the story encapsulated in headlines such as: “Brexit legal challenge wins: Theresa May must get approval to trigger Article 50, High Court rules”. After being engrossed in the Brexit story in the early part of the summer, in much the same way I am with the American election now, things have gone off the boil. Other than a weaker pound that suddenly got stronger with this decision, life continues much as normal.
The frustration for this unapologetic and actually even more convinced Brexiter, given the relentless move toward globalism that I am seeing, is that things are moving all too slowly and I have to trust (or not) the Prime Minister when she says “Brexit means Brexit” (whatever that means) and the government’s intention is to trigger Article 50 (which starts the process) in March.
One of the surprises (or maybe not) that came out of the Brexit vote, besides the majority of those who did vote deciding to vote Leave, is the sour grapes reaction to the verdict by people who found the result was not what they hoped for or expected and who should know better, advocating all sorts of schemes, like holding a second referendum, in order to backtrack on the decision that was made.
As far as I was concerned, the Conservative government was voted in on a manifesto promise to hold an In / Out referendum on EU membership and, unless I have missed something, when we voted in that referendum the government declared they would be bound by the verdict of the voters, even though they like the rest of us did not expect the voters to call their bluff and actually vote to leave the EU.
I have to admit, the legal challenge that was raised and we know today has proved successful was not something I wished for. I think in this case the judges got it wrong since the people have already stated there wishes to leave the EU and if invoking Article 50 is what is needed to progress then so be it. I can understand the government not liking the court’s verdict (but which government would, when their authority is challenged in such a way) and those who want to get on with the Brexiting processes without further delay feeling somewhat indignant, but my response is rather more philosophical.
Our democratic system is far from perfect but at the heart of it is the House of Commons comprising members who have been voted in by the people, with the House of Lords providing a degree of checking and challenging of the government by way of thorough and detailed scrutiny. The independence and separation of powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary, as a means of checks and balances, is an important means of ensuring accountability and best democratic practice. Parliamentary sovereignty was one reason people like me voted Brexit. I found it difficult to find a place for an unelected EU bureaucracy interfering with this process, often usurping the role of Parliament and the will of the people.
We have seen too many examples in recent times where the balance between government, Parliament and the courts has not been maintained as it ought and I for one have often felt uncomfortable when government has overreached in its use of power. While judges and MPs are far from perfect they should be able to reign in misuse of power, even if here is not an especially good example, since it is politically motivated and undermines the democratic process.
My view though is to go along with the High Court decision and for there to be debate as soon as possible, culminating in a vote requesting Parliament’s approval to trigger Article 50. However, if Parliament truly respects democracy it must respect the people’s decision to leave and not use the decision to hold things up unduly with the hope that the decision to leave the EU would be reversed. I hope that is what will happen. I’m tempted to say if not then … well let’s say: we need to cross that bridge should we come to it etc. …