Like 48% of the British people who voted in the referendum on European Union (EU) membership last June, I wanted the UK to remain in the EU. However, 52% of those who voted wanted to leave. I respect the democracy that exists in our nation and so I was prepared to watch as the UK left the European project.
I do think that the EU is outdated and wasteful. It was designed in an earlier time, before the Internet allowed services to easily flow untraced across borders. The world is a different place today and requires a leaner, smarter, union. At one point during the referendum process I even considered the idea that the UK should leave so that EU reform can be stimulated - possibly followed by the UK rejoining. Although as I thought further on this I realised that many EU members would probably be happy to see the pesky UK out of the union and for me to advocate leaving would also align me with the little-England brigade who fail to see how the world has changed in recent decades. And the racists too. Who would want to be agreeing with them?
The High Court judgement yesterday was a shock to many, but it should have been expected. The government says that they will appeal to the Supreme Court, yet this appears to be a waste of time given the existing legal judgement. It is unlikely that a new set of judges will consider that the government can act without the consent of parliament.
Years ago the government acted without the consent of parliament all the time. Prime Ministers, such as Churchill, could make decisions without needing the approval of every MP, yet modern democracy has moved on. Does nobody remember the intention of the government to bomb Syria in 2013?
The government wanted to align itself with the USA in their war efforts, but parliament voted against bombing. It was close, but it was enough for the Prime Minister to say that parliament has spoken and there will be no bombing. The judgement of the entire parliament overruled an action the Prime Minister wanted to undertake.
The situation today is exactly the same. It was the former Prime Minister David Cameron who called for a referendum on leaving the EU. The outcome of the referendum is advisory (not legally binding) and intended to show the government how the people of the nation feel on a single issue. The people indicated that they want to leave the EU and, thanks to this result, Cameron's political career was destroyed.
The incoming Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced that the UK would leave the EU, based on the referendum result, but she never asked parliament if they approved her actions. The entire process was triggered by a Prime Minister worried about the rise of UKIP. It wasn't strategic or considered policy-making.
It could be argued that the referendum overrules what the MPs think, because they are sent there by the people to act as representatives, but this isn't how parliament works. Perhaps a future democratic system in Westminster will involve more Swiss-style direct decision-making by the people, but we are not there yet. The laws of the nation are created and improved by the representatives that are elected to serve in the Palace of Westminster.
For the Prime Minister to ignore parliament and just announce such an important action was itself constitutionally dangerous - and foolish. It was almost certainly driven by a fear of allowing parliament to muddy the process - too many pesky questions and interventions.
Although I wanted to remain in the EU, I don't believe that the people's voice can just be ignored. Many remain supporters are elated at the High Court judgement, believing that this is a reprieve. I don't believe that this is the case at all, it is just the government being forced to follow the correct steps rather than just charging ahead and ignoring parliamentary process. Brexit will probably still happen, but at least there will now be a close scrutiny over the process by MPs from all sides of the house.
I do believe that the public was deceived during the referendum process. Ridiculous claims were made, but then this is often the case in any election. The remain supporters failed to get their message across as effectively as the leave campaign because it's easy to shout about 'taking back our country' and hard to engage people in the realities of a globally networked society. The UK cannot cut itself off from the rest of the world without shrinking to be a significantly smaller economy than it is today. If the British people want to be poorer and less significant, but independent of Europe, then so be it.
The High Court judgement will at least ensure that questions can be asked, rather than leaving the government to run the process from shadowy backrooms. Brexit supporters are outraged at the delay, yet the irony is that British courts ruling on British government decisions is exactly what they wanted.
The real question here is whether we should allow an unelected Prime Minister to undertake actions that affect everyone in the nation or whether those actions need to be checked and approved by parliament first. I don't believe the UK is a dictatorship yet, so of course parliament needs to be consulted for major decisions.
I don't think the High Court decision will prevent Brexit. The MPs know what the people voted for in the referendum and they would be skating on thin ice if they try to block it because they 'know better' than the general public. At least the process can now be undertaken in a more transparent way,with input from all political parties. We might even get a general election in 2017 to help define who is working on this project. We can at least hope.
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