Saturday, November 5, 2016

Parliament’s Brexit role upheld

Gina Miller has done a valuable service to the cause of Westminster democracy by bringing the Brexit issue before the British High Court.

By doing so she allowed the Court to place a restraining hand on the alarming encroachment by the executive on the historic rights and privileges of Parliament.

In handing down the Court’s ruling, Lord Chief Justice John Thomas said it was a fundamental rule of the United Kingdom’s constitution that Parliament is sovereign and can make and unmake any law it chooses.

That is in direct contrast to the actions of Prime Minister Theresa May and her cohort of Brixeteers who now constitute the Government of the United Kingdom.

Ms May was ready to bypass Parliament entirely in some of the most important and fundamental negotiations  upon which the country has ever embarked. If she had had her way MPs at Westminster would have been reduced to spectators, an irrelevance as her Eurosceptic team locked horns with Brussels over the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Now on the back foot for the first time since she rushed to take advantage of the post-referendum confusion in the Conservative Party to snap up the top job, she is trying to justify her untenable position.

“The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament and the Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum,” she said in a statement.

So having authorised the referendum, Parliament’s role is done? The 650 MPs chosen by the people are to play no part in the process that follows that will affect every man, woman and child in the nation? 

The fate of the negotiations should rest entirely with Boris Johnson, David Davis and their acolytes? I don’t think so. Already the cracks are beginning to widen within the Conservative Party as MP Stephen Phillips announced he would quit Parliament over “irreconcilable policy differences with the current Government”.

For her pains Ms Miller is now being subjected to a torrent of vile abuse, with internet comments that she should be “raped” or “killed” interspersed with the usual wearying collection of expletives not deleted.

Her background  (she was born in Peru, is half Guyanese and has lived in the United Kingdom since she was 10) has led to the inevitable demands that she should “go back to where she came from”, while the fact she has been financially successful in her career seems to provoke particular outrage.

Sadly, this is the kind of treatment she must expect from the flag-waving, drink-sodden larger louts of the far right, but she is a tough person — a woman who accepts this is the price she must pay in order to ensure that ideological fanatics will not use the slim majority of the June referendum to take the country on a course that could easily wreck its social, economic and political fabric.   


  1. While you are right to talk about the sovereignty of Parliament, the issue is more complicated than that. The first problem lies in the allegedly neutral pre-referendum document, prepared by the civil servants of whom you have rightly spoken highly and which was sent to every household in the land, in which it was stated unequivocally that whichever way the vote went, that verdict would be carried out. No ifs, no buts.
    The second problem is that while the judges might be seen to be upholding the law (although their decision is to be appealed), their decision is being exploited by those who lost the referendum. Several members of the House of Lords — an unelected body, note well — are speaking gleefully of delaying the Brexit by a year. Not sure how that squares with most people's idea of democracy. And MPs such as Nick Clegg, who has sneered at the 'little people' who didn't understand what they were voting for in the referendum, has stated that he will throw his weight behind attempts to overturn the result. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insists that the Government must reveal its negotiating strategy to Parliament, which would give the anti-Brexit MPs the right to reject any deal that we reach with the EU that does not meet those terms. This is plainly absurd. I'm sure that when you have asked your employers for a pay rise you haven't told them: 'I want an extra $100 a week, but I'll settle for $20.' It is like playing poker and laying your cards on the table before the first round of betting. The point you seem to be missing is that if, as you suggest, Parliament should set out the terms for our Brexit and these are rejected by the EU (as they almost certainly would be), what happens then?
    This is becoming an impossible circle to square and I suspect the only solution would be for Mrs May to call an election, but thanks to the Fixed Term Parliament Act this presents problems of its own. It is looking as if the clearly stated wish of the people is to be thwarted, which should leave those responsible hanging their heads in shame.

  2. I will write on this further of course, but I would never support that the negotiating team should reveal its hand to Parliament ahead of the talks. Corbyn is a fool to suggest that. However, I do believe the final negotiated deal should be taken back to Parliament, and if MPs feel the outcome, as it stands, is not good enough and that the UK, outside the EU on those terms would suffer, then they should vote it down and then vote for the required two-thirds majority to have an early election. At that point the people would have a second chance to reconsider their decision of June.

    1. I am pleased that you understand the problem. However, I am less sanguine than you about the possibility of Davis's hands being tied by the Commons since as well as Clegg and Corbyn there are a few Tories as well who still agree with Clegg's argument that the British public were too stupid and too racist to understand the arguments. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is also demanding what amounts to a veto of Brexit even though the Scots voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying within the UK and the UK voted comfortably for a Brexit. If you are able to read The Times, an article by Melanie Philips in today's issue (Tuesday) might give you pause for thought.