I’m gonna take a small break from ‘Making America Great Again’ to address the High Court’s ruling that the Government must have the approval of Parliament before triggering Article 50, the mechanism by which the UK leaves the European Union. (Insert joke about the irony of Theresa May being able to appeal the decision to the European Courts here).
I’m not going to sit here and say that our MPs should block Brexit, because I’m not sure I believe they should. What I am going to do, is discuss some of the areas of conflict surrounding the debate, and support the High Court’s decision.
First off, as I mentioned a few months ago, this was a pre-legislative referendum. It’s merely advisory, and it’s not legally binding. We therefore do not absolutely have to leave the EU. However, to ignore the will of the people is potentially a very dangerous and undemocratic move. I’ve heard people argue that at the time, let alone now, the majority of the public want(ed) to remain. Be that as it may, that’s not how democracy works. You’ve got to turn up to be counted, and ‘Remainers’, particularly young ones, didn’t. So I guess that nullifies my right to complain.
Now that we’ve voted to leave, shock, horror! None of us know what the hell that might entail. “Brexit means Brexit” basically means fuck all. It’s just political rhetoric designed to poll well. Except I’m so not sure that it does. Besides, it’s a bit early for calling a spade a spade. I’m all for calling it how it is, but we don’t yet know how it is. That’s why we need to go the parliamentary route.
A rather large, pretty huge, perhaps second-only-to-xenophobia and nativism reason for voting leave was to return sovereignty to our parliament. So the idea that Parliament would then not vote, and at the least, debate on what comes next is ridiculous. The ambiguity and deceit of the leave campaign, and the uncertainty that has followed, make a parliamentary debate imperative. It’s of paramount importance to establish what exactly leaving the EU will look like. Will we accept the free movement of people in order to stay within the single market? Or, will we strike the deal of the century to ensure that we can continue to buy Magic Stars in the UK?
Allowing Parliament to debate and vote on leaving the EU will slow down the process, yes. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It will allow for the proper consideration of multiple exit strategies and it will help to prevent mistakes being made. If we are ever to come out of this mess better off, this is the correct course of action. We cannot rush this.
It is however, also of critical importance that parliamentary debates do not drag out over an extended period of time. Don’t get me wrong, the appropriate structure of Brexit needs to be established, but we also need to achieve this within a sensible timeframe. If we reach the 2020 General Election and article 50 still hasn’t been triggered, something is wrong.
Now comes the big one. How should MPs vote? There’s a lot of contingency here. Should MPs vote unanimously in favour of Brexit, in what would be a symbolic vote? Or in line with their region or constituency, which would surely also trigger Article 50? On the other hand, should they vote as if it were a regular parliamentary vote, as elected officials in a representative democracy?
There is also an argument to be made that it is an MPs duty to go against public opinion, or the will of people, in exceptional circumstances. If it starts to become clear that leaving the EU would be detrimental to the long-term wellbeing of the country, then the case could be made for MPs to override the results of the referendum, and vote to block Article 50. There are some that would suggest that we have already reached that point. I’m not so sure that we have, or even that MPs should block Brexit if we do. It’s very difficult to predict what the consequences for doing so might be.
We’ve gotten ourselves into this mess, let’s not make it worse by rushing Brexit. Now is the time for caution and consideration. As much as I, and most likely the majority of the public don’t like it, we’re on this path and a parliamentary debate is the safest course of action from here.
And one last thing, whilst I’m here. How cute/ridiculous is it that people are slamming the ruling of the High Court? From a legal perspective, the decision is spot on. Bless those who aren’t aware of the impartiality of the Courts. They don’t do politics, they do law.