As folk who take an interest in such matters will know, the UK Supreme Court (all members present) this week will be hearing the Government case and counter arguments following the High Court decision that before triggering “Article 50” they need Parliament’s approval. In a sense I find the matter rather boring, on top of being irritating, as I was under the impression that after the UK voted in the referendum held back in June to Leave the EU, that is exactly what the UK will do, without further ado. Given the government has dragged its feet on the matter is another cause of irritation, for what was needed and wasn’t forthcoming was to start the Leave process. What was missing was a plan as the Leave verdict was unexpected.
After all, I and most others who voted to Leave were also under the impression, backed up by the words spoken by the government of the time and by Parliament which voted (as I understood it) for a binding referendum, that is what will happen, just as were it the case the vote had gone the other way we would remain in the EU. I have already given my view on what should happen (see here). While I want to be sympathetic toward those who feel we should remain in the EU or at least maintain strong links, I find it difficult given the unwillingness of some to accept the verdict and derail democracy.
But words are a strange thing and have given rise to a whole industry that will argue over them to the finest level of granularity as is possible. One of them is the way the question on the referendum polling slip was worded: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” No question can be more straight-forward, or so we might think. But as I discovered long ago in my career that included writing technical documentation, there is a big difference between the word “should” and the word “shall”; the former being something that is desired and the latter something that is mandated. So five days are being spent by lawyers before the top judges in the land arguing the case whether or not the Referendum result is binding: whether giving the government the authority to act or merely advisory.
Normally, I would be in two minds. I like the notion of the separation of powers and by giving both the judiciary and legislature a say in the matter, it is part of the checks and balances we need in order to prevent the executive over-reaching itself. Moreover, one of the reasons Brexiters like me voted Brexit was we wanted to give Parliament more say in the way the country is run, taking power away from the faceless bureaucrats based in Brussels (or is it Strasburg) so why not start on the “triggering” question? But all this comes on top of a whole string of the supposed good and the great trying to squirm out of acting upon the verdict of the people and I’ll be d****d before I give them that satisfaction. Moreover, while I am not a fan of any government, which has a long track record (whoever is in power) of avoiding carrying out the will of the people when it suited them, I get the government argument in this case and the argument that getting Parliaments approval will both hold matters up and mean they have to reveal their hand which they would rather not do in order to negotiate the best deal for the British people.
I do not have much confidence in the UK government to negotiate a good deal and even less on an opposition that appears to be united in the main by its desire not to see Brexit become a reality. Whatever the verdict of the Supreme Court, which I agree needs to be abided by, whatever that verdict turns out to be, it would be remiss of Parliament to overturn the will of the people. While I would rather in this case that the High Court decision be overturned, if it isn’t then there should be a debate in Parliament regarding triggering Article 50, with the government revealing as little or much of its intentions as it feels it can. If the vote is NOT to trigger Article 50, then that would amount to what will be in my view a constitutional crisis and the matter will need to be put before the people, not by another referendum this time but by a General Election.
Stop Press: Following posting this article yesterday. I received notification of the following news that has just been announced: “Theresa May calls bluff of Europhile MPs over Brexit with Commons vote”, which begins “Theresa May has dramatically announced that MPs will on Wednesday be given the opportunity to vote on her timetable for triggering Article 50 and formally beginning Brexit“. The article continues: “MPs will be asked to back the Government’s plan to formally serve Article 50 by the end of March 2017. Mrs May also committed to revealing the official plan for Brexit before the process begins“.While I did not expect this announcement unless it was forced on the government, I welcome it and hope we will be pleasantly surprised – ed 07/12/2016