Today the High Court decided that the Government didn’t have the legal right to trigger Article 50 without Parliament’s agreement. The case was bought by a group of people led by a lady called Gina Miller who of course said in true mealy mouthed fashion: “she has stressed throughout that the challenge is not an attempt to overturn the referendum decision”. Of course not dear !
However whilst this lady may feel she has got her way, in reality she may well have triggered events opposite to her intentions because there is no such thing as a “limited war”. As a “Leaver” am I bothered ? Not really but it leads to a range of “unintended consequences” as is so often the case…
Theresa May’s Problem
The Prime Minister’s problem is very simple, she knows that the main thrust of the Leave vote was over immigration and being able to control our own borders and THAT is the one thing she has to deliver on which amounts to our MPs and the Government of the day being accountable to us without recourse to the “Brussels Excuse”. However “Freedom of Movement” is a central part of the core beliefs of the EU and Germany in particular without which, full access to the Single Market is forbidden. And unless the EU is particularly stupid, for all the “no talks before Article 50”, they know and we know that this is what the Brexit negotiations will come down to, there is no mystery here.
Theresa May’s strategy is to appear to be moving forward but in reality “hastening slowly” because nothing is going to happen until after both the French and German elections are settled which means about a year from now before things can really get moving. As part of this, avoiding having her hands bound by a Parliament that being part of the establishment, is at least 60/40 for remaining in the EU, is important because they are likely to pass some daft stipulation about “Full access to the Single Market” being a minimum requirement.
In this of course we have a major problem for a Parliamentary democracy because Parliament should be supreme however, by giving the people a referendum on the EU, Parliament has really over this one issue, surrendered its supremacy to the directly expressed will of the people although our daft judges disagree. Whatever words are used to say that it “wasn’t binding” and so on, having granted a referendum, Parliament is honour bound to stand by the fact that it lent its authority to the electorate. If not, one could argue that the referendum on the EU held by the Heath Government on whether we should be in the “Common Market” as it was called then, was equally invalid because we are and were then, a Parliamentary democracy. Why should one result be binding and another not ? Should we now have a court case over a referendum held 40 odd years ago ?
Whilst Corbyn, the SNP and so on will rat at Theresa May about whether or not she “Has a Plan”, because megaphone diplomacy never works, she has deliberately kept her cards close to her chest and is right to do so. Having big debates in the Commons on what her strategy will be will result in either making it all too clear and given the electoral circumstances in both France and Germany, there being a rejection by French and German politicians in advance that will be written in stone whatever the eventual electoral outcomes. Or, she will have her hands bound with impossible demands that conflict with what the majority want and voted for.
A General Election
I don’t think that a General Election is even faintly feasible. For the LibDems it would be easy, kissing the EU’s collective bottom is an article of faith for all party members and MPs. A bit more difficult for Labour because whilst the party line may be pro EU, the facts are rather different for sitting MPs. As for the Tories, how do they position themselves ? Pro or Anti EU…
It would be fine for the SNP, they would love it but a disaster for Labour because most of their voters favoured Leave and a campaign based upon Remain would see them lose heavily to UKIP. For the Conservatives too it would be a mess, their leafy suburbs probably voted Remain and therefore they could lose seats to the LibDem EU luvvies, the Goldsmith by election will be interesting in this respect.
As for other non urban areas which probably voted Leave, the Tories could lose to UKIP and even where they didn’t, by splitting their support base, UKIP could let third parties take their seats. For the Tories, going to the Country over this could be electoral suicide and we might well end up with no party having a working majority or anything like it. Now oddly, this could play into Theresa May’s hands because that threat might well give her control over her party and allow her to “consult Parliament” but still muster a majority to vote through some meaningless Bill that urges the Government to “Its Best Efforts” during negotiations.
The Unexpected Consequences
The Government will lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court which will then sit on it’s “whatever” and eventually bring forth some ruling. Let us suppose that they uphold the ruling of the old duffers in the High Court and following from that Parliament holds a full blooded debate demanding to know PM May’s negotiating position. She has no choice but to tell Parliament that the right to control our own borders, which would not mean no immigration but would mean controlled immigration, is paramount.
The immediate result is “Hard Brexit” because the EU would say “No Freedom of Movement is an article of faith”, so at this point we may just as well negotiate on the basis that we leave the next day, end of story. Now this may not be a wholly bad thing, in fact it may well be positive for the UK because we would be free to go our own way, the EU would rather be in shit street because no more British EU Contributions plus there would be a lot of upset EU companies with substantial UK market share not very happy with WTO tariff rules. In fact it might well make the EU sit up, take notice and start negotiating in their own best interests and to our mutual advantage.
So providing Mrs May doesn’t do the stupid thing and call an election, even as a voting Leaver who finds this High Court ruling rather lame, I just say bring it on because it will be amusing to watch.
Gina Miller said “The result today is about all of us. It’s not about me or my team. It’s about our United Kingdom and all our futures.”
I personally think that is total bullshit because whilst a member of the EU, many of the laws that govern us are imposed by directives from Brussels and without any consultation with our Parliament so she is not losing rights but gaining them when our Parliament once again becomes supreme as opposed to being a functionary of Brussels.
Still the wealthy often have very high opinions of both themselves and their motives, I suspect that this is an attention seeking lady who wants to have her way and has the funds to pay for it. But if she imagines herself as some kind of champion for liberty, I suspect that subsequent events will disappoint both her and her ego.