To the surprise of few, the Supreme Court has upheld the High Court’s ruling that a Parliamentary vote is required to trigger Brexit. While many will lambast the courts, the essence of the matter was that leaving the EU does affect the rights of UK citizens (e.g. rights to move, work and reside in the EU) and thus could not be done under Royal Prerogative (essentially a Prime Minister’s whim). I am happy to live in a country where this challenge was possible and where it was upheld.
I am less than happy that:
1) The drafting of the Referendum Act was so slack as to miss this fundamental point. I do not think that civil servants and Parliamentary draftsmen would have missed it, so who ruled it out?
2) The Attorney General fought the case in the High Court and then appealed – the outcome was, to my mind, inevitable given the poor drafting of the original Act.
3) The Government did not pre-empt the situation (in terms of Article 50 process) by holding a vote back in September.
The results of this fiasco are:
- UK subjects’ rights upheld. A good thing.
- Initiation of the exit process delayed. A bad thing.
- Exit uncertainty increased (in terms of time). A bad thing.
- Big legal bills for the taxpayer. A bad thing, even given (A).
In terms of Brexit, the stark reality remains that any MP who votes against the wishes of their constituents is electoral toast next time round. And indeed, if the Government manages to lose the vote, it is toast too – and possibly losing the vote would trigger a no confidence vote.
We are about to hear (again) from the SNP, Farron and other assorted Remainers that we need to accommodate the EU to remain in single market blah blah blah, when the facts are that the EU has no interest in requiring anything other than a hard Brexit when it is increasingly clear that the EU’s opening position will be that membership of the single market and the customs union is not possible other than by membership of the EU or EFTA. The EU is, as was entirely predictable, insisting on hard Brexit. I anticipated hard Brexit, and as far as I know so did those who I know who voted out.
- When is Mrs May going to sack her Attorney General? (And he should be sacked, not allowed to resign as his advice has been wrong and he has so far lost 2 from 2)?
- Who is going to explain why the issue was not addressed in the Referendum Act, and who decided to ignore it? (My guess is Cameron).
- How much longer is it going to take the House of Commons to accede to the outcome of the Referendum and do the simple thing of triggering Article 50?
- When will the public’s patience with the institutional ineptitude currently on display run out?
We deserve better government than the system seems capable of delivering. The suspicion that the process is being hijacked by parts of the pro-EU elite is strengthening. Mrs May, you have had ample time to consider this and you took the job of PM to deliver it. Brexit means pulling your finger out. Now make it happen.
(Image: Garry Knight)