Mrs May calls the remainiacs’ bluff

David Cameron bequeathed a tough job to his successor. He had not expected to lose the referendum and had forbidden the Civil Service to produce any sort of Brexit plan. It did not help that the various leave groups had not managed to unite around an agreed plan either.

This meant that, having won our amazing victory against all the odds, we have tasked Mrs May’s government and the Civil Service with the challenge of working through a huge number of extremely important issues relating to Brexit virtually from scratch.

With so much information to digest and to turn into a viable exit route within a tight timescale, the relative silence from the government is understandable. It is wise indeed not to give a running commentary as the complexities are analysed and options evaluated. Nor is it a good idea to reveal your negotiating hand prematurely. The odd hint has crept out, such as the “Have cake and eat it” memo which caused such a stir last week, to be followed very quickly by a denial that it was any indicator of official government policy.

There seems very litle point bothering readers with idle speculation based on what at this stage can only be guesswork. However, whatever the Supreme Court decides about the role of Parliament in triggering Article 50, there is much to be said for our MPs being given some sort of briefing before Article 50 is finally triggered so that they know the escape route the government plans to take.

A motion by Labour calling for the government to publish its plans on Brexit is not therefore particularly unreasonable in and of itself as long as the party accepts that there are good reasons why it is taking some time for the plans to be ready for publication. Unfortunately, Wednesday’s debate revealed that many of our elected representatives are not up to speed on a number of EU-related issues including, for example, the interface between the Single Market, the European Court of Justice and the EU’s customs union.

The government had put forward an amendment confirming that the House of Commons will respect the view of the British people expressed in the EU referendum and call on ministers to start the Article 50 process of exit by the end of March. Although both the motion and the amendment are essentially symbolic, the amendment turned out to be an excellent way of smoking out the troublemakers. There are thankfully few of these among the Tories; although the majority of Conservative MPs voted for  remain, much of the Parliamentary party has rallied round its new leader in respecting the vote and seeking to get the best possible deal.

On the Labour benches, the rude awakening on June 24th that many voters in their heartlands had chosen to support Brexit has meant that a good few MPs were supportive and will not resist the triggering of Article 50 as long as they can be reassued that it will not  result in economic suicide.

With the vote passed by 448 votes to 75 and the Government amendment by 461 votes to 89, we can take some encouragement that the lower house will not derail Brexit. As the Daily Telegraph commented, “The vote….gives MPs a chance to show that they too acknowledge the primacy of the people on Europe. Those who refuse to back the amendment will be making a public declaration of contempt for the voters.”

Of course, Brexit has pulled away a traditional safety net for career politicians whose ambitions are thwarted. If you lose your seat in Westminster, there will usually be some sort of position available for you in Brussels. Indeed, if you manage to fail spectacularly, like Neil Kinnock or Peter Mandelson, you might end up as  Commissioner with a six-figure salary and without even going through any democratic process to get your new job.

For this reason,  the opinion of the electorate perhaps counts for more than it did before, for if you lose the support of your constituents and thus your seat, there will be one less alternative career option open to you.

So when the vote was finally taken, it was a relief that only 89 MPs voted against the government’s amendment, with the majority of Labour MPs siding with the government. After all, whatever the legal niceties about whether or not the referendum was binding, the government’s infamous booklet couldn’t have been clearer:- “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.”

Well, we made our decision to leave and as even the Guardian admitted last week, “Remain is still losing rather than winning support. There is no appetite for a second referendum.” It is time for the 89 MPs listed below to wake up and smell the coffee.

Conservatives(1):

Ken Clarke

Labour (23):

Helen Hayes

Meg Hillier

Peter Kyle

David Lammy

Chris Leslie

Ian Murray

Barry Sheerman

Tulip Siddiq

Angela Smith

Catherine West

Daniel Zeichner

Rushanara Ali

Graham Allen

Ben Bradshaw

Ann Coffey

Neil Coyle

Stella Creasy

Geraint Davies

Louise Ellman

Jim Dowd

Chris Evans

Paul Farrelly

Mike Gapes

Lib Dems (5): 

Nick Clegg

Sarah Olney

Mark Williams

Alistair Carmichael

Tim Farron

SDLP (2):

Alasdair McDonnell

Mark Durkan

Plaid Cymru (3):

Liz Saville Roberts

Hywel Williams

Jonathan Edwards

Green (1):

Caroline Lucas

Independent (2): 

Michelle Thomson

Natalie McGarry

SNP (51):

Hendry, Drew.

Stewart Hosie

George Kerevan

Calum Kerr

Chris Law

Angus MacNeil John Mc Nally

Callum McCaig

Stuart McDonald

Anne McLaughlin

Carol Monaghan

Paul Monaghan

Roger Mullin

Gavin Newlands

John Nicolson

Brendan O’Hara

Kirsten Oswald

Steven Paterson

Margaret Ritchie

Angus Robertson

Alex Salmond

Tommy Sheppard

Chris Stephens

Alison Thewliss

Mike Weir

Catherine West

Eilidh Whiteford

Philippa Whitford

Corri Wilson

Pete Wishart

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh

Hannah Bardell

Mhairi Black

Ian Blackford

Kirsty Blackman

Philip Boswell

Deirdre Brock

Alan Brown

Lisa Cameron

Chapman. Douglas

Joanna Cherry

Ronnie Cowan

Angela Crawley

Martyn Day

Martin Docherty-Hughes

Stuart Blair Donaldson

Marrion Fellows

Margaret Ferrier

Stephen Gethins

Patricia Gibson

Patrick Grady

Peter Grant

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John Petley

John Petley

John Petley is Operations Manager for Campaign for an Independent Britain

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4 comments

  1. Phil JonesReply

    Right on, John, right on.

    I hope for its own sake the Supreme Court decides that Parliament cannot override the will of the British people, as expressed on 23 June. For the Supreme Court to decide the opposite would be a travesty — equivalent to agreeing that the tail can wag the dog — and would forever discredit the UK’s highest court. The President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court should have excluded themselves from hearing the Divisional Court appeal based on the principle that judges must not only be unbiased but must be seen by the general public to be unbiased — as expressed by Chief Lord Justice Hewart in the early 1900s and followed by such cases as In Re Pinochet (1999). If in fact the opinions of the two justices are included in the coming judgment, the outcome will to me represent a lasting stain on the British judicial system.

  2. Ian PhillipsReply

    It would be interesting to know how each of the judges voted…..
    Firstly in the referendum…..and
    Secondly in reaching the verdict of the appeal.
    What are the odds on these votes being identical……?

  3. Will PodmoreReply

    I think it’s inadvisable to refer to those who do not yet agree with us as ‘Remainiacs’. Abuse reflects the abuser, not the abused.

    I have sent the following to the Telegraph and The Times, on different days, without success.

    In law, the government has the right to invoke Article 50 without referring again to Parliament. The government’s prerogative is ‘a part of sovereignty which Parliament chose to leave in [the Government’s] hands’ (per Lord Reid in Burmah Oil Co (Burma Trading) Ltd v Lord Advocate [1965] AC 75, 100). So when Parliament chooses to leave powers over treaties with the government, this is no affront to Parliamentary sovereignty. The government keeps the power to start the process of leaving the EU.

    Treaty-making powers reside with the government in other common law jurisdictions like Canada, Australia and New Zealand: withdrawal from treaties is entirely a matter for the executive. Even in the USA, where treaty ratification is subject to Senate approval by a two-thirds majority, the power to withdraw from treaties vests exclusively in the executive.

    In 1972, the government used the prerogative to sign the Treaty of Accession whereby we joined the EEC. Nobody complained then that the government exceeded its powers. The European Communities Act provided for changes to EU law effected by using prerogative powers to take automatic effect in domestic law. On that basis, since 1972 EU rights and obligations have been added to, amended and taken away through using prerogative powers and those changes have, with no further legislation, been effective in domestic law.

    As Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on 9 June 2015 in opening the second reading debate (Hansard) on the Referendum Bill, “This is a simple, but vital, piece of legislation. It has one clear purpose: to deliver on our promise to give the British people the final say on our EU membership in an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 … whether we favour Britain being in or out, we surely should all be able to agree on the simple principle that the decision about our membership should be taken by the British people, not by Whitehall bureaucrats, certainly not by Brussels Eurocrats; not even by Government Ministers or parliamentarians in this Chamber. The decision must be for the common sense of the British people.”

    When the House of Commons voted through the European Union Referendum Act of 2015, by 544 votes to 53, it gave the British people the power to decide whether or not we leave the EU. Only the Scottish National Party’s MPs voted against. The House of Lords voted through the Act.

    The Act itself did not say that it was advisory. Ministers never said that it was advisory. Both campaigns said it was not advisory. On the contrary, they repeatedly said that the referendum would allow the British people to decide. And imagine if the Stay camp had won, and if the government had then said ‘we have listened to the debates and we have now decided that leaving the EU is the right thing to do, your vote was only advisory’.

    The referendum question was, ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ The question was not, “Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” Parliament decided to let the people decide. Nothing in the Act or in its legislative history suggested that Parliament intended that the government should only start to implement a decision to ‘leave’ if given further primary legislative authority to do so. It did not promise to hold an advisory poll, with Parliament left to take the final decision.

    The government leaflet distributed to all households stated on the page headed ‘A once in a generation decision’: “The referendum on Thursday 23rd June is your chance to decide if we should remain in or leave the European Union. This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.” It did not say “it is your chance to advise on whether we should remain, the actual decision being taken by Parliament.” The Britain Stronger in Europe leaflet said, “On 23rd June, you will get to vote in the EU referendum, and decide whether Britain remains in or leaves Europe.” Both official campaigns were asked if the result was binding, both confirmed that it was.

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