“Article 50” must not be invoked

I differ slightly from many fellow Remainers in that I do not believe the result of last month’s referendum is deemed illegitimate because the winning side has now been shown to have engaged in outright lying. Although I think the UK should have a referendum watchdog as it does for advertising (and as nearly all democracies have), the fact is the Remain side had the air time to explain the lies and the people still opted on the basis of all the information, albeit marginally, to leave the EU. Let us all respect that decision.

Nevertheless, I do agree with my fellow Remainers and indeed many Leavers that the terms of the UK’s exit must be put back to consultation with the people. That is why Article 50 must not (and, in my view, probably will not) be invoked, because that creates an ugly two-year countdown during which terms would be dictated to the UK rather than agreed with it.

The more obvious way for the UK to leave the EU is to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which gives effect to EU Law in the UK. This is the one which requires legislative consent in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but to be clear withholding that consent has the practical political effect only of retaining EU Law in relation to devolved issues; it would no longer apply in England at all, nor for any reserved matters, and the UK would now be in breach of EU membership terms (thus in effect ceasing to be a member state).

Of course, this repeal should only take place once the UK has its future relationship with the Single Market and other prospective trade deals beyond the EU clearly established. The “Department for Brexit”, as proposed by one potential Prime Minister, would oversee all of this work and, in principle, once it had reached a satisfactory conclusion in the view of the UK Government, the majority in Parliament commanded by that Government would vote to repeal the European Communities Act.

Of course, by its very nature, all of these negotiations (which include not just the rest of the EU) will take some time, surely at least until the next scheduled General Election. It would make democratic sense for that election to be fought between a Conservative Government ready to repeal the European Communities Act on the basis of the work done by the Department for Brexit; UKIP ready to repeal it on the basis of keeping foreigners out and trashing the UK’s economic prospects; and a Progressive Coalition of LibDems, Greens and a new-SDP candidates standing on a common platform committed not to repealing the European Communities Act at all and remanding in the EU. Alternatively, the deal could simply be put back to referendum.

Thus would be satisfied the respect for the democratic legitimacy of last month’s referendum but also the respect for the democratic right of the people to make a determination once the terms of leaving the EU are clear. Is there anyone outside UKIP who would have a serious problem with any of that?!

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5 thoughts on ““Article 50” must not be invoked

  1. The Listener says:

    We should not allow for doubt. To move into your suggested ” bog of indecision” would be unwise. A majority of the people of the U.K. voted to leave the EU. This should be the resolute policy of the U.K. Govt. A short delay in pressing the Section 50 button is permissible to allow pending governmental changes and for the firming up of policies. However a resolute approach toward BREXIT with elections due elsewhere in Europe, not least in Germany and France, may see the policy makers of the EU becoming more amenable to the UK with regard to future relationships. To fudge matters now will only play into the hands those who favour, for their own reasons, continuing membership of a sclerotic EU, which in the case of Scotland is the need by the intellectually light SNP of a Bank of last resort in the form of the European Central Bank, to sustain the possibility of independence.

    • Needless to say we disagree here (the whole UK constitution is built on a mountain of fudge after all), but I’d be interested to hear any further views.

      The UK Government is committed to “implementing what you decide”, but proceeding with Article 50 will leave no practical room for negotiation at all. The EU cannot allow the UK favourable terms of withdrawal (though it could now allow it favourable terms of staying).

  2. News just in.

    https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/jul/03/parliament-must-decide-whether-or-not-to-leave-the-eu-say-lawyers?CMP=share_btn_tw

    In terms of withdrawal, I think the EU should allow the UK to take its own risks with its own economy. If they pay off the EU may consider copying, if they fail don’t touch the nonsense with a barge poll.

  3. Seymour Major says:

    I’m with you on the first point. Politicians tell lies or distort information. That goes with the territory. So when the Brexit camp said that the proceeds of savings to UK’s contribution to the EU would be spent on the Health Service, remainers did indeed dismiss the notion as nonsense. Sir John Major was one of them.

    Of course, I am not, for one second, trying to justify what happens but politicians do lie because people are too ready to believe what they want to hear rather than thinking matters through. If all of the population were mathematically initiated, we would probably not have half the political lies that occur. Also, had the referendum vote was restricted to those with a university degree or greater, the remain camp would have won ‘hands down.’ Unfortunately, large swathes of stupid ignorant voters are part of the price we have to pay for universal adult suffrage.

    I agree with the consultation principle but I am opposed to holding back Article 50 for that purpose. Firstly, there is a two year period to negotiate with the EU. That is plenty of time to take views into account. Secondly, a consultation before Article 50 would dilute some of the focus because some of those being consulted would be likely to use the consultation to lobby the Government to withhold article 50 permanently.

    I do not agree that the legislative consent of devolved parliaments is required to abolish the European Communities Act 1972 (“ECA”). That is quite implicit for the following reasons. Just taking Scotland, the Scotland Act 1998 Ached 4, Part I forbids the Scottish Parliament from amending section 1 and schedule 1 of the ECA. Schedule 1 contains a list of all the different treaties. After the Lisbon Treaty (the one which provided for Article 50) it was ratified by the UK Parliament under the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008. The Latter Act inserted the Lisbon Treaty into schedule 1 of the ECA. Under the Northern Ireland Act 1988, the equivalent provision is Schedule 2 (excepted matters).

    “Of course, this repeal should only take place once the UK has its future relationship with the Single Market and other prospective trade deals beyond the EU clearly established”

    I do not agree. Trade deals could take a number of years beyond Brexit to negotiate. What happens until then is the default position which is WTO rules or an interim agreement pending the more permanent trade agreement. It is more likely than not that this will happen fairly quickly. The EU has a stronger motive to sort this out quickly (they wont emphasize that in their political posturing). They will not want the WTO to kick in. The EU trade surplus with the UK amounts to about £24 billion per quarter. 7 EU countries – Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Poland have a combined surplus to the UK of USD115 Billion per annum.

    “It would make democratic sense for that election to be fought between a Conservative Government ready to repeal the European Communities Act on the basis of the work done by the Department for Brexit”

    The reality is that this would be a ‘back door’ way of preventing, what you suggested should be respected, the will of the people in the referendum result.

    “Thus would be satisfied ……the respect for the democratic right of the people to make a determination once the terms of leaving the EU are clear.”

    Not really. A referendum is a vote on a specific issue. An general election is about electing a party for Government. An election with the possibility of a referendum to reverse the earlier one could cause a massive dilemma for a lot of people. A referendum promise won’t appear in a conservative manifesto. Furthermore, asking a conservative prime minister to call a general election without invoking Article 50 is akin to a demand for political career suicide. It will never happen.

    • Absolutely on the contrary, I think invoking Article 50 is suicide.

      Doing so will lead to a deal which UKIP will instantly call a betrayal, enabling them to cause real damage in 2020.

      However, doing a deal before 2020 and then saying “Re-elect us and we will repeal the Act and leave the EU; don’t risk splitting the vote or the Progressives might get in and not repeal it” guarantees a comfortable majority.

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