On Thursday it was announced that the Government does not have the power to invoke Article 50 without Parliamentary approval. Many perceive this high court ruling as a victory for democracy and the Remain campaign; many leading Brexit figures however, such as David Davies, responded to the ruling on twitter with ‘Unelected judges calling the shots. This is precisely why we voted out. Power to the people!’ . With MP’s being consulted in Parliament before Article 50 is invoked it seems that a long road to Brexit is imminent.
Earlier this year, Theresa May announced that she would use royal prerogative to trigger Article 50 and thus lead Britain out of the EU. However Gina Miller and her legal team argued that “unless we have the legal certainty to know what we’re doing as we go forward is binding, then who knows what the future will have in store for us? We could be walking into so many legal challenges and nightmares. Isn’t it better that the legal certainty is ruled [on]now rather than later?”. Since the referendum in June, there has been a significant lack of certainty and clear strategy from the government and opposition; all parties need to be involved in this process, this is perhaps the most important decision the UK has made since 1974. A formal bill would allow MPs to fully debate Article 50 before the formal negotiations with the 27 other European countries commence. Without the consent of Parliament, the people are not being served. We need a Brexit that works for the whole country, not just the 52% nor the 48%, and without consulting Parliament the UK will head into an era of voter disenfranchisement and dissidence.
However, the high court ruling hasn’t been met with much acceptance from leading Brexit campaigners. UKIP Parliamentary spokesperson Suzanne Evans stated, ‘How dare these activist judges attempt to overturn our will? It’s a power grab & undermines democracy. Time we had the right to sack them.’ . Nigel Farage also stated that by trying to ‘block’ or ‘delay’ Article 50 ‘they have no idea of the level of public anger they will provoke’ .
Matthew Cowley, former Chair of Southampton Students for a Better Britain, gave his opinion on the verdict. ‘It is a disappointing ruling, given the recent decision by a Northern Irish court that Royal Prerogative would apply in the case of Article 50, as it does on other foreign policy matters. While one hopes this will merely be a case of rubber stamping the activation, Parliament debating Article 50 won’t have an impact on the type of Brexit we have – and likewise it does not have any effect on negotiations, other than simply to delay them’.
I understand that this is a very sensitive issue. Brexit has had a huge impact on the British public, but the whole EU referendum was formed around the idea of ‘taking back control’, which created a toxic environment for anybody who did not vote leave. Since the referendum, the Daily Mail has coined the ‘bremoaner’ for remain voters. Not only is it offensive but it feels like the 48% are being ignored within this process.
The fact that Theresa May’s government did not understand the basic principles of the British constitution and law brings up several red flags. LBC presenter James O’Brien spoke passionately yesterday about the referendum, stating that ‘they couldn’t even come up with a factuous slogan to describe what was going to happen next, without effectively breaking the law of the land or acting in direct contravention of the law‘. At face value, many people consider the ruling as an attempt to delay Brexit and make Britain a global laughing stock, but how can we be expected to ‘take back control’ without addressing parliament? O’Brien also quoted AV Dicey, a Constitutional jurist professor who wrote what is still the leading book on constitutional law. Dicey asserted that ‘Parliament has the right to make or unmake any law or whatever and further that no person or body is recognised by the law as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament’. With the frenzy created by this decision, leading Brexit campaigners and media outlets such as the Daily Mail naming and shaming the judges, we are forced to consider what the Brexit process is really all about. After all to quote Theresa May, ‘Brexit Means Brexit’.