So the government has lost! I blogged on October 13th that the High Court was going to rule on a challenge to a swift exit from the EU – the Article 50 strategy and May’s preferred route to Brexit.
Today’s ruling in short has supported the view that parliament must debate and vote upon any Brexit process. Yes the referendum made the decision, but the process is still dependent upon the will of parliamentary – don’t take my word for it, that’s effectively what the court’s ruling today has settled.
The attached link should answer your questions on this HUGELY significant case for all AS students of UK Politics, so I urge you to read it and the links therein. Fascinating.
How is it directly relevant to the course? … To be honest it’s easier to say how it isn’t!
Unit 1 Democracy & Political Participation – June’s referendum was the most recent manifestation of Direct Democracy in the UK. 17.5 million people voted to leave, the ‘remainer’ Cameron resigned and Theresa May couldn’t be clearer in her governments commitment to honour the peoples’ vote. ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Thing is ours is a Representative Democracy and Parliamentary Sovereignty is the central pillar of our constitution, so make no bones about it this court decision may yet be a game changer for Theresa May.
Unit 1 Party Policies & Ideas – As new as it is May’s government will ultimately be judged by Brexit. The Conservatives, like Labour, have deep divisions over this issue. The thing is Labour are in opposition and are happy to make life as difficult as possible for the Tories on this issue if/when it comes to parliament as the court today says it must. Never forget that tiny majority of 12. In the face of this May’s plans to implement Article 50 by next March are looking impossible now – not least for which over 80 Tory MPs voted to remain! Add to these the Scot’s Nationals, Lib Dems and Labour, and May’s options are suddenly looking limited.
Unit 1 Elections – This ruling could yet make an early general election a reality. May said this wasn’t her preferred option, but in order to garner the votes necessary to take Brexit forward, a ‘single issue’ (EU) election may be another unexpected outcome to today’s news. Additionally Corbyn’s poll ratings remain low and there is nothing like a general election to keep potential rebels on the backbenchers busy and in line!
Unit 1 Pressure Groups – Investment manager Gina Miller, who brought the case, launched the Brexit legal case along with London-based Spanish hairdresser Deir Dos Santos and the People’s Challenge group backed by a crowd-funding campaign, so here’s a perfect example for you all of influence at play.
Unit 2 Constitution – The court’s ruling is precisely based upon a review of constitutional law, coming down on the side of those MPs, citizens and pressure groups – like People’s Challenge -who’ve argued that the Executive branch alone (e.g May’s government) cannot override parliamentary sovereignty.
Unit 2 Parliament – There’s no getting around it, with such a small majority the power of parliament cannot be ignored so easily by prime ministers and their governments. For the overwhelming number of MPs that want parliament to debate and vote upon the eventual Brexit process (once the government has decided one!), this is a welcome ruling that will enable parliament to flex its muscles on this issue with confidence. … Worryingly for May, history tells us that parliaments get a taste for power; ask Cameron, his leadership witnessed the most rebellious parliaments since the Second World War!
Remember also that Parliament means BOTH Houses, not just the Commons. Therefore even if May can get it through the House of Commons, she may yet face stern opposition from the Lords where the Conservatives only have about one-third of the total Lords. This could be incredibly useful for the role of the Lords…watch this space!
Unit 2 Prime Minister & Cabinet – Theresa May’s cabinet is structured around the issue of Brexit (indeed Brexit is the reason why she is the PM now and not Cameron!). Peter Davis, Minister for Brexit, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox are the key Brexiteers in what is a noticeably more right-wing cabinet than the one that proceeded May’s leadership. That said Amber Rudd was a leading ‘reminer’ in the referendum campaign, so don’t think that there aren’t still divisions within the cabinet itself that this ruling will pour salt on… So watch this space.
Unit 2 Judges & Civil Liberties – If this isn’t THE example of judges having an impact upon government and government policy, then I’m not sure what is. The rights of parliament – as the embodiment of the peoples will (as expressed at the last general election) has effectively been ruled to be above the right of the Executive branch to make the decisions on how the UK is to withdraw from the EU. David Davis has already said the government will challenge today’s ruling and appeal it to the Supreme Court, in what will undoubtedly be an historic ruling (whatever the decision) by what remains a relatively new institution in governance.
In conclusion, this issue still has a way to go – so keep your eyes upon it. It is SO useful to you. No really.