On The Article 50 Ruling

royal-courts-of-justice

Everybody calm down

So as was always a possibility, the High Court has ruled that the government does not have the authority to initiate Britain’s secession from the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without first winning a vote in Parliament.

From the Guardian:

Parliament alone has the power to trigger Brexit by notifying Brussels of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union, the high court has ruled.

The judgment (pdf), delivered by the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, is likely to slow the pace of Britain’s departure from the EU and is a huge setback for Theresa May, who had insisted the government alone would decide when to trigger the process.

The lord chief justice said that “the most fundamental rule of the UK constitution is that parliament is sovereign”.

A government spokesman said ministers would appeal to the supreme court against the decision. The hearing will take place on 7-8 December.

The lord chief justice said: “The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government. There is nothing in the 1972 European Communities Act to support it. In the judgment of the court, the argument is contrary both to the language used by parliament in the 1972 act, and to the fundamental principles of the sovereignty of parliament and the absence of any entitlement on the part of the crown to change domestic law by the exercise of its prerogative powers.”

Unless overturned on appeal at the supreme court, the ruling threatens to plunge the government’s plans for Brexit into disarray as the process will have to be subject to full parliamentary control.

Starry-eyed, anti-democratic campaign group New Europeans are naturally delighted by this development, which they see as the first step toward overturning/ignoring the EU referendum result and ploughing on as though their hateful and spurned vision of a federal continental union had not just been summarily rejected at the ballot box.

Moments ago this cautiously triumphant missive from New Europeans pinged into my inbox:

This only adds to the political challenges for those of us who are determined to stop Brexit come what may.

If Theresa May decides to call an early election as a result of the legal challenges, we will find ourselves with a new parliament elected with a huge Conservative majority and a parliamentary mandate to deliver Brexit.

In this scenario, there will be no chance of a second referendum on the deal. Britain will be out of the EU in no time and there will be no way back. The best we could do would be to secure safeguards for EU citizens already here and Brits in Europe through our campaigning in Brussels.

On the other hand, if Theresa May is able to start the negotiations and bring the deal back to the current parliament, it is plausible that she will not be able to carry a majority for her Brexit deal, particularly if it is a hard Brexit deal (as seems likely), the cost of which will be truly “titanic”.

Failure to secure a parliamentary majority on a Brexit deal will mean a new election and provides the opportunity for a second referendum on whatever deal she negotiates. That would not be a referendum like the last one on the question “Do you like migrants?”. It will be a referendum on the cost of Brexit and I predict that the public will vote over-whelmingly to stay.

There is a huge job to do if we are serious about stopping Brexit. One of the key arguments in the legal challenge must continue to be the focus of our campaigning. It is not acceptable for the government to remove the individual rights of citizens by way of a referendum.

The rights that EU citizens – and all British citizens are currently EU citizens- will lose on Brexit mean that from a legal, moral and political point of view Brexit should not be allowed to go ahead.

From a moral point of view? When will these preening, sanctimonious euro-moralists get over themselves?

Meanwhile, Pete North takes the news in his stride:

The government will appeal. I’m pretty relaxed about it to be honest. The vast majority of Tories will fall in behind May and Article 50 will pass even if it scrapes a majority. There is no question of it not being invoked. The main sticking point will be a parliamentary demand that Mrs May pursue membership of the single market which she is in all likelihood planning on doing anyway. Why they are bothering I don’t know since Mrs May can make no guarantees. If they do manage to block it by some obscure means then they are basically signing their own death warrants and I think they know this. No MP would ever be safe in public again. From an anti-establishment perspective either suits me fine. If they want to spit on Brexit then they are basically declaring open war on the public. That’s a battle they lose every time.

I’m inclined to agree. Any Remainer celebrations are premature in the extreme. Even assuming the government loses its appeal to the Supreme Court (and unlike some angry Brexiteers I do not claim to be enough of a British legal scholar to know whether or not the case deserved to win on its merits), Parliament would almost certainly not stand in the way of the referendum result, no matter the posturing of some pro-EU MPs.

I don’t really remember the Poll Tax riots toward the tail end of Thatcher’s government. I mean, I remember seeing stories about it on the news, but since I was only eight years old the political ramifications of what I was seeing rather eluded me. But despite my hazy memory, I think it is safe to say were MPs (and it would have to include many Labour MPs representing constituencies which voted to leave the EU) to vote against giving the government authority to invoke Article 50, the resulting conflagration would make the Poll Tax riots look like a summer picnic on Hampstead Heath.

Never mind the constitutional ramifications, and the bizarre state of limbo into which Britain would fall, caught between an instruction from the people to secede from the EU and the petulant demand of MPs to remain. That is nothing compared to the wave of fire and fury and civil disorder that would (rightly) be unleashed upon Parliament, the political class and those MPs responsible.

Now, in our benighted age it is true that we suffer a number of MPs of less than exceptional intelligence and ability. But even the slowest of the crop are capable of grasping that when push comes to shove, they do not want their final act on Earth to be telling the British people, including many of their own constituents, to go to hell – that we should pipe down, forget about independence from the EU and meekly listen to the instruction of our superiors.

Let the legal process unfold as it may. If putting the ball back in Parliament’s court  gives Remainers who now suddenly fetishise British parliamentary sovereignty (after having been happy to watch it relentlessly undermined through our years of EU membership) a furtive thrill, or helps to shore up their denial, then so be it.

They will find the survival instinct of the British political system is much stronger than their ongoing child’s tantrum about being parted from their beloved European Union.

 

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Top Image: Steve F E Cameron / Wikimedia Commons

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11 thoughts on “On The Article 50 Ruling

  1. Peter Smith November 6, 2016 / 4:12 PM

    Ah Sam, the real irony is in your second last paragraph, which cuts directly into the heart of the whole question:

    “If putting the ball back in Parliament’s court gives Remainers who now suddenly fetishise British parliamentary sovereignty (after having been happy to watch it relentlessly undermined through our years of EU membership) a furtive thrill, or helps to shore up their denial, then so be it.”

    The choice is simple and the likely outcome is straight-forward as well. Maybe it’s just too simple for many people to understand after so many years of political “marking time”:

    1. Stay in the EU and guarantee that parliamentary sovereignty will always be under threat…or
    2. Leave and reclaim total parliamentary sovereignty with the freedom and challenges that this will bring.

    Like

  2. Clive Lord November 4, 2016 / 1:51 AM

    “were MPs (and it would have to include many Labour MPs representing constituencies which voted to leave the EU) to vote against giving the government authority to invoke Article 50, the resulting conflagration would make the Poll Tax riots look like a summer picnic on Hampstead Heath.”
    Those, especially in constituencies hardest hit by this government’s policies since 2010 have every t[right to be angry, but I hope their anger will be directed at the fight targets – those who blamed their plight on Europe, but also told them they were taking back control of immigration.
    The Nissan deal could only be based on an assumption that control of movement of people will not happen. Europe will not allow tariff-free movement of goods without free movement of people.
    There are other factors which were not foreseen on 23rd June – Scotland – and even more tricky – Northern Ireland – voted to remain.
    I have argued in my own blog that the Citizens’ basic income has international relevance which will do more to answer those who feel ‘swamped’ by immigrants than Farage’s points system con t rick.

    Like

  3. Dblain November 3, 2016 / 11:09 PM

    The legal way ti quit the morubund EU is to invoke article 50. The referendum result was to leave. So the Gov has to invoke it to be able to implement the decision that they and all remain campaigners said they would do (9.3 £m booklet). It should have been invoked on June 24th. Removing all uncertainty. Remember, the peoples decision was not vased solely on economic reasoning but in many reasons where decisions had been removed from us by an increasingly distant political elite both at home and in the EU; support of which is widespread across the member states. We will leave the EU and hopefully the single market and customs union racket at the same time. Sooner the uncertainty is removed the better we will prosper.

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  4. fountianhead November 3, 2016 / 5:11 PM

    I find it hard to concede that there would be mass civil unrest. There are a considerable number of rabid Brexiteers but the majority of Leavers were less extreme and would not “take to the streets”. The balance between the two sides in the referendum was less than a million people. Let’s please stop talking about the “substantial majority” or the fact that “the people have spoken”.

    The main reason that I and a lot of fellow (daily passionate) Remainers have kept quiet since the initial shock of the result, is the near certain knowledge that A50 will never happen. If I genuinely thought there was a chance, I and thousands like me would be up in arms.

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    • apbaxter94 November 6, 2016 / 10:55 AM

      ‘is the near certain knowledge that A50 will never happen.’

      A very foolish and arrogant position to take. May I ask why you are so certain?

      Like

  5. DarrenMWinter November 3, 2016 / 4:27 PM

    Brexit was easier to sell when no one challenged the “£350m a week to the NHS” lies. If the government is forced to reveal the exact post-Brexit landscape and it turns out their plans mean we’ll all be worse off – or worse still, the government has to admit what we all know in that they have no post-Brexit strategy – that, combined with the fact that everyone will listen much closer to the Leavers’ position because of the lies that come so easily before, will make Brexit a much harder sell.

    I do remember the riots well. I also remember the bailiffs banging on the door, coming to my workplace, trying to take things out of the back garden. I don’t think there’s any comparison between those times, and constituents who see the dismal post-Brexit prospects for the country. There were 48 million people who didn’t vote for Brexit.

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  6. wien1938 November 3, 2016 / 3:58 PM

    New Europeans haven’t read the judgement, have they?

    “The rights that EU citizens – and all British citizens are currently EU citizens- will lose on Brexit mean that from a legal, moral and political point of view Brexit should not be allowed to go ahead.”

    The legal judgement stated that Parliament will always have the power to make, amend or unmake laws and this includes the European Communities Act. So, Parliament can authorise the Crown to begin negotiations because Parliament is able to decide what is and is not a legal right.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. wien1938 November 3, 2016 / 3:56 PM

    Can I just check if you read the judgement? If not, I’d recommend taking twenty minutes or so to read through the whole thing – very rewarding. Having read it, I could see that the government had no case and that we’d have to go through Parliament.
    But I think the anti-Brexit brigade are fooling themselves if they think Parliament can stop Brexit. Just how do they imagine they can get the country behind them?

    Like

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