Tag Archives: EU Referendum

Remember, remember the 5th of November…

Bornfire night in the UK. The annual festival of fireworks commemorating the foiling of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. You can find out more about the original Gunpowder Plot here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/gunpowder_robinson_01.shtml  but the significance of Bonfire Night in 2016 has been brought into even sharper relief by the events in the High Court of Justice this week.

In June 2016, the UK electorate voted by 52 : 48 in a non-binding referendum to leave the European Union. These are facts. The referendum said nothing about the speed with which the exit was to be achieved, nor the terms and conditions that were to be negotiated in leaving the political and economic union. How could it? A referendum is – by its very nature – a black and white, binary process. “Leave” or “Remain” were the only options available to the electorate in June.

Since June, the debate has raged in the media and across the country about the precise form that ‘Brexit’ should take. Every pub, café, workplace has seen variations of the same sorts of conversations about hard and soft Brexit, and the triggering of Article 50. Bizarrely, the one place that has not staged that debate is the House of Commons – the centre of our parliamentary democracy. Other than repeating the utterly meaningless phrase that “Brexit means Brexit”, and stating consistently that the government will not discuss the terms of its negotiating strategy with the EU because that would somehow make the negotiation more difficult, Ministers have treated parliament with utter contempt on the issue.

Thankfully, the rules governing the withdrawal of a country from the EU (the now-fabled Article 50) require that country to follow its normal constitutional conventions in formally triggering the exit process. The UK – famously – does not have a written constitution per se. Ironically, it has been a Conservative Party manifesto commitment for at least the last three general elections to introduce a formal Bill of Rights that would go quite a long way towards codifying UK constitutional convention, but it has so far proved to be beyond the wit of Ministers and Civil Servants to come up with something that adequately replaces several hundred years’ worth of legal and parliamentary convention.

Thus it was that this week, the High Court was asked to uphold the constitutional convention that Acts of Parliament cannot be repealed other than by a subsequent Act passed in the usual way by both Houses and subsequently endorsed by the Crown. This was something of a blow to the Prime Minister, her three wise monkeys overseeing the Brexit process, and the baying, Neanderthal, ultra-right ideologues that now populate most of the print media in the UK. They seem to have forgotten that in the UK, British Laws for British People can only happen through the explicit Acts of the Houses of Parliament.

The High Court acted to reinforce the constitutional convention that Parliament is sovereign in the UK’s democracy, preventing a unilateral and un-scrutinised exercise of Article 50 that would have been as damaging to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, as Guy Fawkes gunpowder would have been to the bricks and mortar of the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

That Article 50 will be exercised in due course is beyond doubt. That it will be exercised with the will of Parliament following appropriate scrutiny and debate of the government’s strategy for Brexit, is thanks to the Rule of (British) Law and the independence of the judiciary within the (British) constitution. And if that’s not worth sending up a firework for, I don’t know what is.

 

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It’s that time of the year again!

November 1st. All Saints Day. Fifty-five days until Christmas. And the first day of NaBloPoMo 2016. In case you’re not aware, NaBloPoMo is the insider’s short-hand for National Blog Post Month – the annual challenge that encourages bloggers to post something (anything!) every day for the month of November. That’s thirty consecutive days of blogging. If this fills you, dear reader, with dread, then please accept my apologies in advance.

In truth, I’m really looking forward to the challenge this year. The last 12 months has been one of enormous change for me at a personal and professional level, and I will be reflecting on that in the coming weeks. I’m also looking forward to the discipline that NaBloPoMo imposes to get some writing done. Things have been so busy in recent months that finding the time to properly maintain this blog has been next to impossible. I’ve missed it.

These are ‘interesting times’ in so many ways. The fallout from the UK’s referendum on EU membership continues to divide opinion and fuel uncertainty. The US Presidential election in seven days’ time will be a watershed moment whatever the outcome. It’s hard to imagine that the outcome (whichever way it goes) will lead to a healing of the bitter divisions that have been laid bare through the campaign. That will be damaging for the US but will also have knock-on effects throughout the world. Uniting both the UK referendum and the US presidential campaign has been the emergence of what is now being referred to as ‘post fact’ or ‘post truth’ politics – typified by a deep cynicism towards a perceived ruling elite, and a contempt for expert and rational analysis. Prejudice, feelings, paranoia, conspiracy theories – all have somehow become as important as fact, thought, experience in the political discourse. The implications of this for the future of politics and political processes are only now starting to be fully considered. This is something that I may return to after the election on 8th November.

It won’t be all politics and heavy stuff though. There’ll be football to write about after the mighty Wales take on Serbia on 12th November; and there’s all that change stuff to bring you up to speed on as things fall into place during the first half of the month.

I hope that you’ll enjoy this NaBloPoMo as much as I intend to!