On The Article 50 Ruling

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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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Following A Remain Vote, The Slow, Inevitable Descent Into Irrelevance, Apathy…And Worse

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In case of a Remain vote, brace for impact…

Pete North fears the consequences of a Remain vote:

If Britain votes to remain in the EU we will have permanently forfeited most of our rights to influence policy over trade, fishing, aid, energy and agriculture. These are absolutely crucial to our overall domestic industrial policy and these areas have a profound impact on our lives and our economy. Having sealed the deal to no longer take an interest in such affairs, parliament will be able to seal itself into its tiny little bubble where reality may never intrude. It will be the absolute final death of adult politics.

As much as Britain will withdraw from the world, it will largely delegate the important policy areas to the EU technocrats and will instead be fixated permanently on the minutia of our lives. Controlling what we do and our individual choices is all that will be left for them to influence.

And so I can see Britain becoming a distinctly illiberal place, where politicians use their remaining powers to restrict our personal freedoms in what we do, what we consume and what we say to one another. They will become ever more controlling over things which are none of their business. I see a political system making itself wholly redundant and resorting to displacement activity to fill the void.

Consequently the public debate will be an ever more diminished one, where the House of Commons becomes a gallery for vanity and virtue signalling. To many extents we are already there but a remain vote pretty much seals our fate.

It’s hard to disagree with this assessment. Unless, of course, one inhabits the EU apologists’ alternate universe, where a Remain vote signals a new era of enthusiastic British leadership in the European Union (despite not being a member of the euro or Schengen), and the EU starts falling over itself in its desire to reform and respond to the individual concerns of member states.

In Owen Jones / David Cameron / Jeremy Corbyn La-La Land, having positively re-affirmed our commitment to the EU with a Remain vote we will all join hands beneath a rainbow and “work together” to solve the intractable crises and internal contradictions of this creaking, mid century-era political union with a snap of the fingers. But for those of us back on planet Earth, the next few years will actually be profoundly depressing.

Pete continues:

I do not see this coming without a price to pay. Certainly I don’t see that I have a place in the new model of post-democratic politics. We will have a political class which does not believe in Britain’s capabilities and lacks the will to govern.

We will be an insular country of diminished significance having turned our back on global participation. We will have empty shells of political parties neither of which are worth a vote. And voting to be rid of them will accomplish little. We have seen how the system neatly castrates insurgent parties and we have see how those not native to the system can be marginalised. There will be no value in voting.

And when it comes to Euro-elections, where we have the dubious honour of selecting overpaid button pushers to rubber stamp global regulations, the details of which are already decided, we will, at best, send the very worst of what we have in protest. If we even bother at all that is. I won’t.

We will in effect be an occupied country where there is no value in participating in the public debate since the conclusion of any debate will simply not translate into policy or reform.

Consequently politics as a subject heading will be a subheading of light entertainment, where if anybody holding any expertise wishes to influence policy they will depart for Geneva and never look back. Anyone with a hectoring and nannying agenda though, will head for the Westminster gossip bubble.

Meanwhile the disconnect between the governed and the governors will grow. From there, there are only two paths. Permanent idiocracy or a furious backlash the likes we have not seen for generations. There is always a price for turning our backs on democracy. Always.

This echoes my own thoughts exactly –  it is not coincidental that our politicians increasingly seek to meddle in the minutiae of our lives at the very time they are divesting themselves of ever more power and responsibility for any of the truly big political and ideological questions.

And this is the reason why I simply cannot fathom so many people from outside of politics – usually the first ones to grumble about the state of the nation – enthusiastically cheerleading for the status quo and our continued participation in the EU.

Do these people like the fact that voter apathy is a major problem? Do they rejoice in the fact that all of the main political parties in Westminster fit within such a narrow ideological window that the views of many are entirely excluded? Are they happy that the British people have not been called on to strive together towards an important goal of any kind in nearly seventy years, and that we are increasingly a nation of passive, whiny consumers of public services? And assuming they are not happy with the status quo, how on earth to they think that any of this is likely to change while the single biggest drain on our democracy, independence and entrepreneurialism remains intact?

Already we have a parliament in Westminster stuffed to the rafters with politicians who would rather make grandstanding anti-austerity speeches in the hope of going viral on YouTube or wax lyrical about banning Donald Trump from our shores in a dismal act of virtue signalling than actually get to grips with policy. If we continue to divest power and sovereignty to the EU (and as Cameron’s fraudulent renegotiation shows, we sure as hell ain’t getting any of it back) then how is the calibre of our own politicians going to do anything other than decline yet further?

And yes, there will ultimately be a backlash. Pete is right. You can just about get away with governing in an aloof, high-handed and profoundly anti-democratic manner when you are delivering rip roaring economic growth – just ask the dictators of China. But in a mature advanced economy facing serious structural issues, the government can do little to distract us from the gaping chasm where real local democracy and an informed citizenry should be.

At some point the divergence will become too great. The EU’s primary purpose is to steadily integrate the various member states toward the goal of political and economic union – the common European state spoken of so fondly by Francois Hollande last year. This objective overrides everything else. Certainly, trivial matters like mass unemployment in Spain, Italy and Greece are utterly irrelevant compared to the obsessive desire to unite the continent under a single currency and government. The EU simply doesn’t care.

Of course, when the mass political disengagement and civil disorder comes, all of those now eagerly chanting hymns of praise to the EU and encouraging us to vote Remain will feign utter shock. In some cases it may even be genuine. But the blame will lie squarely with them.

For despite our material progress and the current flourishing of London as the world’s capital city, Britain is on a negative democratic trajectory right now, and a vote to remain in the EU is nothing less than a vote to pitch the nose downward a few degrees and turn up the throttle.

And the ground will make no distinction between Remainer or Brexiteer as it rushes up to meet us.

 

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