The recent court ruling that Parliament must be consulted before article 50 is triggered has caused something of a kerfuffle, and many learned people have written many learned words on the matter. Some are claiming it a triumph of Parliamentary sovereignty and laughing that the Brexit campaign based on regaining Parliamentary sovereignty might object to it, and others consider it to be an un-elected judiciary thwarting the will of the people.
If you want some learned an academic opinions on the matter here’s a couple of links I like:
“A deeply troubling and wrong-headed decision
When it comes to using the prerogative for “less Europe”, there are implied limitations which do not seem to exist for “more Europe”
Brexit: Judicial Review – round one
…if anyone really thinks that the Courts are objective seekers after the truth, and will find according to the fact, they are away with the fayries. At this level, “justice” is about making sure the establishment view prevails, and this is decided long before any lawyer starts addressing a judge.
Now as spiked observe f we felt we could trust our MP’s to do as we’ve asked this court ruling would be of absolutely no note. What makes the court ruling seem significant is that we, with I think good reason, don’t trust our elected representatives nor the house of lords to actually do as they’ve been instructed.
However putting all of that aside lets consider that matter of Parliamentary sovereignty, I can’t help but feel that on the matter of triggering Article 50 and leaving the EU they’ve already been consulted. Now please note I’m only talkign about leaving the EU, not anything else we negotiate. Lets consider how often Parliament has already been consulted:
- The Conservative party made a manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on our membership of the EU and was duly elected on that manifesto
- A bill was put to Parliament regarding the referendum and how the negotiations would happen which was duly enacted by a margin of 6:1
- The Government then published an official leaflet saying that the result of the referendum would be implemented – a statement about which no questions were raised in Parliament and neither campaign nor any MP objected to
So Parliament has had plenty of chance to have it’s say, I’d argue it’s been asked repeatedly and said “we’ll let the people decide”, so now we’ve decided there should be no further debate about triggering article 50. I would further point out that the act of triggering Article 50 doesn’t change a single jot of UK law, no matter what may be claimed. UK law need only change at the end of the two years of negotiation and my suspicion would be that even after that not an awful lot needs to change in a hurry.
Personally I agree that what form Brexit takes should be debated not just in Parliament but widely in the whole country, we should stop wasting time debating the question of leaving, but start debating what we want from leaving and how best to achieve it. The idea that Parliament should have much of a say in the negotiations I’m afraid risible for two very simple reasons:
- No official negotiations can start until article 50 is triggered
- After article 50 is triggered there is a two year clock after which we’ve left the EU with whatever has been negotiated
So we can’t start to negotiate until after article 50 is triggered and once it’s triggered we have 2 years to sort things out and we either accept what’s negotiated or we have nothing. So if Parliament wants a say on what’s negotiated once the negotiations are over they have two choices:
- Accept what’s been negotiated
- Reject what’s been negotiated and leave the EU with nothing
Also Parliament by act of voting for the EU referendum bill have already said that they don’t want to know, the bill only requires that the Government tell Parliament what has been negotiated 10 weeks before the end of the two year period, there is no provision to vote on it. So be enacting that law Parliament has already expressed it’s opinion.
Duty to publish information on outcome of negotiations between member States
“(1)The Secretary of State must publish a report which contains (alone or with other material)—
(a)a statement setting out what has been agreed by member States following negotiations relating to the United Kingdom’s request for reforms to address concerns over its membership of the European Union, and
(b)the opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom on what has been agreed.
(2)The report must be published before the beginning of the final 10 week period.
(3)In this section “the final 10 week period” means the period of 10 weeks ending with the date of the referendum.
(4)A copy of the report published under this section must be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State.
So as with the referendum if Parliament wanted to have a say on the negotiations they should have said so when they voted for and enacted the EU referendum legislation. Parliament has repeatedly chosen to not ask for, demand nor insist on the ability to review the decision of the referendum or the subsequent negotiations. This is not the same as Parliament not being asked, it was asked – it said “Meh!”. Having yet again elected to not perform it’s duties Parliament should not now claim it hasn’t been consulted and that it needs powers it could have asked for but didn’t.
Parliament is still free to debate all aspects of Brexit and what sort of country we want to be, do we want open boarders, do we want free trade with the world, all manner of things that they’re previously let the EU decide they should now be debating to “get the best deal for everyone”. The question of Brexit itself though they had their chance, their task now is just to enact the will of the people. Once Article 50 is triggered, which to my mind is a treaty change well within the remit of Crown prerogative, then as we have to amend and repeal laws can Parliament rightly debate and scrutinize how that is done.