Debate: Should parliament have a vote on Article 50?


No – Chris Manby

Judges in the High Court ruled this morning that the government must consult Parliament before invoking Article 50 and triggering Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. Since a majority of MPs backed the Remain campaign during the referendum, Leave campaigners have good reason to smell a rat.

The government have vowed to fight the ruling in the Supreme Court. There is every prospect of the decision being reversed. If that doesn’t work, then a snap general election would almost certainly return a huge Conservative majority with a headline manifesto commitment to deliver Brexit. But make no mistake, the Remainers and their lawyers have won a major battle today. They must not be allowed to win the war.

The arguments of the referendum campaign have been reversed. Those who favour EU membership now argue that Parliament ought to determine the terms of Britain’s withdrawal, if only to render Brexit so meaningless that we might as well not even bother. Brexiteers, by contrast, assert that the Parliament they fought so hard to free from the grip of Brussels should have no opportunity to shirk or surrender its new-found responsibilities.

Given the chance, parliamentary opponents of Brexit would seek to kill off the entire process. There is an air of fanaticism about europhile MPs who see their future perks and pensions at risk. It has become painfully obvious that parliamentarians cannot be trusted to rule on their own future. The stark irony of a parliament that does not wish to be sovereign at all should not be lost on anyone.

Parliament is only sovereign because it represents the will of the people. The people have spoken – or at least, a majority of people who felt strongly enough about the issue to turn up and vote. It has become fashionable amongst Remoaners to call the referendum result merely ‘advisory’. Yet the referendum literature clearly stated that “the government will implement what you decide”. That alone ought to have been enough to head off any challenges to the result.

Yet the Remain camp are prepared to fight to the bitter end for the united ‘Europe’ they so love. People like Gina Miller, the investment manager leading the so-called “people’s challenge” against Brexit – a woman who claims the vote made her feel “physically sick” – will never see it as legitimate.

Nor will the likes of Green Party leader and softly-spoken lunatic auntie Caroline Lucas, who described the High Court result as “brilliant news”. Or Labour MP David Lammy, who crowed that “this is what real sovereignty looks like”. Or Tim Farron, who in recent months has set about rebranding the Liberal Democrats as the ‘party of Europe’.

For the last four months we have been told that the vote to leave was racist in origin, that it unleashed a wave of hatred against foreigners, that the people didn’t know what they were voting for, and must have been lied to. The vitriol poured out against the ‘ignorant’ white working classes who dared vote against the expressed opinion of their betters has been shocking.

Brexiteers must be ready to fight even harder to preserve the country we love from parliamentary obstructionists, judicial activists and rich financial sector luvvies determined to reverse the July vote. If we don’t then we will lose everything we have gained, and deservedly so. In the Game of Thrones you win or you die.

Yes – Phil Myth

Today’s supreme court ruling that the government can’t use royal prerogative to invoke Article 50 and instead must put it to parliament has, by and large, been met with consternation from Brexiteers. Given the outpouring since the result from Remain supporters for the result to be ignored or overturned, one can understand why Leavers are worried about this recent development.

There has been a worrying display of anti-democratic sentiment since June 23rd. From petitions calling for a second referendum, to public protests (neither of these garnering anything like enough numbers to match the 17.4m who voted to leave mind you), to outright defiance from MPs such as David Lammy, calling for the biggest vote for any one thing in British history to be ignored by those in power.

That said, the judgement this morning has been met with rather more hysteria from Brexiters than is warranted. Farage has donned the tin-foil head gear, claiming he fears ‘a betrayal may be at hand’, and the likes of Leave.EU are equally unhinged, with founder and UKIP financier Arron Banks stating “Why wouldn’t unelected judges want to preserve an EU system where unelected elites like themselves are all-powerful?”

It’s really quite spectacularly hysterical. Those ‘unelected judges’, as they’ve also been dubbed by David Davis, weren’t upholding the EU system, but rather British constitutional democracy. Sure, it would’ve been nice if we’d had more of that when powers were being handed over to the EU in the first place, but it’s good to see it’s finally kicking in. The judgement today has not subverted democracy, overturned the referendum result, or said that we can’t leave the EU.

The result means that MPs will vote on triggering Article 50. Or to put it another way, our elected representatives will be required to act out the will of the people. This, more than anything else, is precisely what Leavers voted to Leave for. I find myself siding with the Remainer school of thought that it’s ironic that those that campaigned for parliamentary sovereignty are apoplectic about a UK court ruling that parliament will be sovereign on this issue.

Now, there are of course an overwhelming majority of MPs who were in favour of Remain. But that doesn’t mean that they will all be ignoring the referendum result, even if a few noisy ones wish to do exactly that. Former Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps tweeted to say that, although he backed Remain, he wont be voting to frustrate the will of the British people or his constituents. Jeremy Corbyn too has reiterated that Labour respect the result of the referendum. It’s likely both parties will whip in favour of triggering Article 50.

I have another proposal though. Each MP should do precisely what they were elected to do and represent their constituents. Any MP whose constituency voted to Remain in the EU should be given free reign to vote against triggering Article 50. But those MPs whose constituents voted to Leave the EU should acknowledge the instruction given to them by those who elected them, and vote in favour of the motion.

Unfortunately, the referendum result wasn’t broken down according to Parliamentary constituency, but by local authority area. However some work has been done to extrapolate these results to parliamentary level, finding that of 574 English and Welsh constituencies, 421 probably voted to leave, and of those, 270 definitely did. Conversely, 152 voted to remain, with half (76) almost definitely voting to remain, The result hasn’t been converted for Scotland, but let’s throw Nicola Sturgeon a bone and suggest that all of Scotland’s 59 constituencies voted to Remain. Thus, if MPs vote how their constituents did, as they should in a representative democracy, Article 50 gets triggered by a vote of 421 to 211.

Remainers get to be properly represented in parliament, Leavers get Article 50 triggered, and it’s all done by a sovereign UK parliament according to British constitution. Sounds good to me.