Brexit

Brexit Process Getting More Complicated

High court rules government must get a vote from Parliament on a law before invoking Article 50.

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UK Home Office

A ruling by England's High Court has called into question whether the government of the United Kingdom will follow through on the results of the Brexit referendum and actually withdraw from the European Union. The High Court ruled that the British government could not invoke Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty, which governs separation from the EU, without a vote of approval in Parliament.

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, who was in favor of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union but says she is now committed to Brexit and making the UK a "fully-independent, sovereign country" again, intends to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, established in 2005. May telephoned the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, and other EU leaders insisting her government was working to invoke Article 50 by next March. The EU and the UK will have two years from the day Article 50 is invoked to negotiate a British withdrawal from the European Union before an automatic withdrawal kicks in.

The European Union, started as a common market, has become the most complex supra-national government in world history. While its foundations are the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within its broader borders, a vast political bureaucracy has also been built.

If May loses the appeals, her government will have to submit legislation to Parliament. Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister and the Europe spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, indicated his party would try to amend the legislation in order to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union's single market, and that he'd like to see the public get "a say" on the final deal. Given Article 50 starts a clock on withdrawal, it's unclear how a second referendum would work. The EU has signaled it will not start Brexit negotiations until the British government invokes Article 50. In order to accommodate a second referendum, the EU would have to indicate that the British government was allowed to go back on Article 50.

The June referendum in which British voters narrowly chose to leave the European Union, was a "consultative" referendum that did not have the force of law. Opponents of the results insist because it was consultative it requires a vote in Parliament before government action. Some members of parliament have suggested a snap election prior to such a vote.

Before the Brexit vote, David Cameron, prime minister at the time, told the House of Commons that a vote to leave meant triggering Article 50 and that "the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away." While the prime minister, who campaigned for Remain, insisted throughout that the vote was not a referendum on him, he resigned after the Leave campaign won. Some leave campaigners hinted that it was possible to use a Leave vote to renegotiate better terms with the EU without invoking Article 50, but after the vote EU leaders, looking to discourage other populations from making a similar democratic decision, insisted the UK was obliged to invoke Article 50 and that no more renegotiations of membership would take place.

Opponents of Brexit have also pushed the idea that voters made the wrong choice or that in some other way the results didn't matter. They say a small amount of voters may have changed their mind and point at the slim margin of victory (about 4 points)—this could be a good point. Britain has long had a complex relationship with the EU different from other member states that more easily ceded more of their sovereignty to European institutions. This vote was framed as the end of that dance—either the UK would commit to the European project or it wouldn't. Under such conditions perhaps it would have been a lot fairer to require a two thirds majority to pass. Consent is important, and if British voters are being asked to make more permanent the ceding of their sovereignty from their Parliament to Brussels, perhaps half or almost half of them saying no is something that should stop such a significant and transformational transaction.

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  1. Everything I’ve heard says that while a parliamentary vote is required– and the Brexit vote was “non-binding”, it would be politically dangerous to ignore the Brexit vote. Very dangerous.

    1. It’s the Brits so no one is quivering.

      1. Yeah, not much of a martial history in the British isles.

    2. The Will of the People. …meh

      1. Right thinkers will save them from themselves. Whew, that was close

    3. Not really. The 48% of the people who voted against Brexit would be fine with the govt ignoring it, and their ranks are increasing as time goes on thanks to immigration and the oldsters who remember an independent UK dying off.

      1. Ed’s entire last paragraph could be written the other way.

        Staying in the EU is likely to be more ‘transformational’ as the EU bureaucracy gains more power and the British government must therefore cede.

        From this viewpoint an argument could be made that the ‘Stay’ folks need 2/3s.

        The real gist of the argument, though, seems to be that people can’t be trusted and that TOP MEN should decide for them…

        Less than libertarian, from that view-point.

          1. *sigh*

            TOP MEN deciding for them is what the EU was in the first place.

      2. Take the UK constituency by constituency.

        Assume 40% of the “Leave” voters who didn’t vote UKIP in 2015 are pissed-off enough at their vote being ignored that they vote UKIP in the next election.

        Assume party vote share otherwise remains close to the same.

        Under those assumptions, the only mathematically-possible governments are Tory-UKIP, Tory-Labour-SNP, or UKIP-Labour-SNP.

        Now, sure, those are assumptions; maybe “Leave” voters won’t be angry enough to vote UKIP in such numbers, or maybe the SNP and Tory votes will collapse in favor of Labour in the face of UKIP doing well. But “dying off” “as time goes on” isn’t fast enough to make ignoring “Leave” safe; the next election is in 2020, not 2040.

    4. If by “politically dangerous” you mean “assassination,” your’e correct.

  2. Too many top men

  3. While its foundations are the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within its broader borders, a vast political bureaucracy has also been built.

    Understatement of the year award winner right here!

    And also, the “foundations” were most certainly NOT the “free” movement of these things, but yet another way to tax and regulate ” the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within its broader borders”.

    Sheesh.

    1. Cynically, the real foundation was to connect the French & the West Germans in hopes of preventing another war.

      1. The Sunnis and Shiites might have other plans.

      2. I never considered that aspect of the foundation to be cynical.

        1. Probably the only part that isn’t cynical.

  4. High court rules government must get a vote from Parliament on a law before invoking Article 50.

    You got a real type of thing goin’ down, gettin’ down…

    1. +1 Holy Disco Mothership

  5. They could have made it easier on themselves if they had simply fixed the vote in the first place.

  6. We all knew that the process would be impeded and obstructed in every way possible. The only reason they let it go to referendum was they were confident that the vote would be for “stay.” The only hope is that these transparent shenanigans will make it abundantly clear to people that their betters in government will not abide by the will of the people. It is probably too late for Britain, but I am forcing myself to hang on to a shred of hope.

    1. To be fair, Cameron got fucked by EU. He promised the referendum, expecting to be back in coalition and, when handed the majority, got put in a corner. But his plan was simple. Negotiate some kind of symbolic compromise he could take home, win the referendum on pretense that this is just the start, then go on. I mean, even EU leadership could at that point understand that reforms are needed, right? Easy-peasy, he gets to claim credit for things that need to get done anyway, anti-EU forces get shut down, and reasonable reform (which everyone agrees with) starts working its way through.

      But nope, they wouldn’t even give him the fig leaf. He asked for little and couldn’t even get that. Then he had to go and argue that yes, UK totally got what it wanted and EU is sooooo reformable.

      1. Yeah, but from the EU’s point of view, rewarding the threat of Brexit with significant concessions would have resulted in every member state making the same threats, making the EU even more unmanageable. Of all people you would think Cameron would understand that he wasn’t going to get much help from them.

        1. Right, but he wasn’t asking for meaningful concessions. All he wanted was a small reform on migrant welfare he could take home (and that could be applied EU-wide, too). And shit, they could have made that reform meaningless two-three years later by more negotiation, stalling and/or doubletalk.

        2. Why is that a bad thing? Members negotiating better terms with the leadership sounds like a functioning organization

      2. True. Cameron did not come back from his EU meetings waving a piece of paper that guaranteed “reform for our time.”

    2. The only reason they let it go to referendum was they were confident that the vote would be for “stay.”

      absolutely

      The purpose of a political process is to give the appearance of validity. There is no inherent superiority to a parliamentary vote compared to a popular referendum when the question is to measure the public will.

      The difference w/ the former (via parliament) is that it obviously enables a layer of bureaucratic institutional influence which can alter the balance – but the problem here is that they already had the referendum.

      It would have been a different matter if they’d staged these processes the other way around – e.g. had a parliamentary debate, and then decided on a referendum as being a way to *further validate* whatever process parliament had agreed to.

      That would have had the effect of making the process seem *more* democratically & procedurally valid; in that parliament itself would have said, “we think this is too important to be ‘politicized’ (and we also don’t all want to lose our jobs if we ‘vote wrong’)”…. and ceded the decision to popular will.

      Instead, by doing it in reverse – doing the referendum first, THEN injecting a politicized procedural dimension – particularly one which no one agreed upon in advance – they do the opposite: they undermine the perception of the legitimacy of parliament, which is being called in to re-litigate an already publicly-validated decision.

      1. Are you saying that true executive authority derives from a mandate from the masses?

        1. *supreme* executive power. AND YES. Hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society is a path to self-perpetuating autocracy

        2. Well it’s not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. I mean, you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you. If I went ’round sayin’ I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away.

          1. +1 anarcho-syndicalist commune

      2. G- Excellent point on the sequence of events.

  7. “While its foundations are the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within its broader borders, a vast political bureaucracy has also been built.”

    Yeah, not quite. One of its foundations is making people(‘)s(‘) living conditions the same, while respecting cultural differences (another foundation). Of course any time soon that only works with (a) massive redistribution, and (b) the assumption that cultural differences are not and do not affect living conditions. It’s a marvel of absurdity. There’s a principle of subsidiarity in it, too, (whatever states can do better, they get to do), but that’s ignored nicely, and you have the classic “Commerce Clause” type of strategies going on. Above all reigns the principle of “effet utile” (a kind of vast implied powers doctrine: whatever furthers the goals is fine), which is coupled with the explicit goal of an ever tighter union (how that’s supposed to not clash with “respecting cultural differences”, is a riddle of the ridiculous kind).

  8. David Cameron, prime minister at the time, told the House of Commons that a vote to leave meant triggering Article 50 and that “the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away.”

    Note that he didn’t say that the government would do it, just that the people would expect them to do it. It was obvious from early on that they were going to weasel out in the then-unlikely event of a Leave vote.

  9. I still think EU should take a page from Lincoln’s political playbook and start a major war to prevent Britain from leaving a Union they voluntarily joined.

    1. Except the Constitution doesn’t have an analogue of Article 50, and Britain hasn’t attacked any EU forts as far as I know.

      If the south wanted a way out, they should have negotiated for one.

      1. “The South sent delegations to Washington and offered to pay for the federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with Confederate agents because he claimed the Confederacy was not a legitimate government, and that making any treaty with it would be tantamount to recognition of it as a sovereign government.”

        Sorry that this is from Wiki, but at work and don’t have time properly research for you. But here is Wiki’s reference that that statement came from.

        Potter, David M.; Fehrenbacher, Don E. (1976). The Impending Crisis, 1848?1861. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-013403-7. p. 572?573.

        1. I meant at the time of the Constitution’s adoption.

          1. EVERYTHING MUST REMAIN IN AMBER

    2. How? The EU sans Britain doesn’t have the sealift capability to cross the Channel.

  10. One of the leaders of the “Leave” movement, Daniel Hannan has written a very interesting article on populsim:

    Populism, III: Insects of the hour

    The same is not true of the European Union, which is a textbook oligarchy. The President of the United States is elected in the world’s most watched election; the President of the European Union is appointed in secret over a sumptuous dinner. The U.S. Constitution was adopted following ratification by thirteen states; the E.U. Constitution was rejected by the French and Dutch electorates, but then imposed anyway under a new name. The U.S. system of government is based around maximum decentralization of power; the European Union’s founding treaty declares, in its first article, the goal of an “ever-closer union.” …

    The E.U. citizen, in short, has far more cause to rage against the system than has his American cousin. I say “against the system” advisedly. There are all sorts of things against which the American voter might rage with reason, from the quality of some of his candidates to the deteriorating debt situation. But the U.S. Constitution is not to blame for these things. On the contrary, it contains the means for their redress.

    1. The U.S. system of government is based around maximum decentralization of power

      heh heh … well….

      1. The US Constitution also declares in the first sentence, “to form a more perfect union.”

    2. But the U.S. Constitution is not to blame for these things.

      That’s HIGHLY debatable.

      1. Give the US Constitution a break. It’s been getting dented and dinged by power-hungry politicians for 230 years with very little maintenance. That it hasn’t transformed into an utterly dead letter by now is amazing in itself.

      2. I don’t really think one old frigate can be to blame for, sorry, I read that as USS Constitution.

    3. “The one thing that he unequivocally understands populism to signify is “something that other people like, but I don’t.” Thus, calling for a referendum is populist. Accepting the result of a referendum is populist. Free speech for Eurosceptics is populist. Tax cuts are populist. Cutting waste is populist.”

      Nice

    4. Let’s not get too triumphalistic — the US Constitution vs EU Constitution is a product of one being crafted in the Enlightenment and the other during the postmodern era. If the US came up with a new constitution today it would probably look a lot like the EU’s.

      1. Enlightenment was also the era of Absolutist Monarchy in Europe, so no, I think there would still be differences. English parliamentary system, for all its flaws, is less top-down oriented than the French system that most of continental Europe adopted. So no, “president is appointed by a commission, parliament votes yes or no. He appoints a cabinet, and parliament can only vote up or down on everyone at once” would not be a part of any hypothetical US constitution of today.

      2. This. It would be chockablock with giveaways and set-asides to special interest groups, all of whom would have their victim status set into permanent law.

        Blech.

  11. That the Brexit referendum has no force of law is a good argument. That some amount of voters may have changed their mind is a lousy argument. It undermines the whe point of elections, because that could be said of any polling result. Going with that thinking is an argument against democracy as it implies that the will of the people is unknowable.

    1. We’re gonna allow you to keep voting until you get it right.

  12. The people have spoken…the bastards

  13. In “A World at Arms:…”, Weinberg mentions re the Italian ‘surrender’ to the Allies: ‘If there was something the Italian government could have screwed up and didn’t, it has not yet been found’.
    Pretty sure Brexit is gonna get a similar rep.

  14. Why oh why is the old school hard right making such a comeback in Europe? This hard won national referendum that’s about to be ignored should be Exhibit A. Not following through will be dangerous, and not just politically.

    1. The Left has been calling anybody who disagrees with statism racist for so long, that when real racists like Golden Dawn and AFD show up, the epithet has become so worn-out that calling them what they are has no effect.

      1. They’re essentially saying “We heard you and we don’t care about your opinion or democracy.” The judge may have been ruling on matters of law but Parliament is champing at the bit to throw a wrench in the gears for various reasons.

        Systematically marginalizing a large percentage of the population, the majority in this case, will always lead to a bad end.

      2. AFD might well be “racist” by modern German standards. But then so is speaking out about mass rapes and sexual assaults that happen to have been committed by Muslim migrants.

  15. Expect things to get really interesting next year, when France holds it’s elections. Should Marine LePen’s National Front come into power, which it has an excellent chance of doing, that will be France out of the EU, and probably the end of the EU as well. There may not be an EU left to exit.

  16. Consent is important, and if British voters are being asked to make more permanent the ceding of their sovereignty from their Parliament to Brussels, perhaps half or almost half of them saying no is something that should stop such a significant and transformational transaction.

    So democracy is the bestest thing ever except when it reaches conclusions that displease the left.

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