Thursday, November 03, 2016

What happens after the court ruling on who can trigger article 50?

There has been a lot of speculation about what happens following the court ruling earlier today.

Much of it has been someone over hyped.

Let's assume for the moment that this ruling is not overturned by the Supreme Court, which it might well be.

It is possible that the House of Commons may try to use the debate on article 50 to get a bigger say in what Brexit looks like. However, although many Leave supporters suspect the people who brought the legal case of trying to sabotage Brexit - and I can see why they would think that - MPs who actually did try to prevent the invocation of article 50 would be playing with fire. Especially the 421 MPs for constituencies which voted to Leave. It would look like giving the electorate a V sign, and for both principled and selfish reasons, I do not believe a majority of MPs will do that/

The House of Lords might be more of a problem for the government, which does not have a majority in the Upper House, a body which by inclination was overwhelmingly pro-Remain.

However, for the past century, the unelected House has consistently avoided putting itself in the position of blocking things which the electorate has clearly voted for, recognising that if they did make a habit of doing so it would lead in short order to the abolition of the House of Lords or its' replacement by an elected chamber.

There is a principle known as the Salisbury Convention that the House of Lords does not try to block measures which were in an elected government's manifesto - and the Conservative 2015 manifesto promised to call a referendum on EU membership and also promised to respect the result. In my opinion, although the House of Lords could legitimately raise matters about what Brexit should look like, trying to scupper a bill to trigger Article 50 would be a clear breach of the Salisbury Convention.

There is an interesting panel response in the Guardian here on whether the Article 50 ruling will stop Brexit. The best answer was given by Anand Menon, Director of "UK in a changing Europe" and here is are the main points from it:

"This ruling won’t halt Brexit, but further legitimise it

Keep calm, everyone. Today’s high court ruling does not mean parliament will prevent Brexit. They won’t and, what is more, they shouldn’t.

Why won’t they? Well, first, because they may not get a chance to. The judgment is not the end of the story, there is an appeal to come. But let’s assume the supreme court upholds the verdict. Parliament then would have a right to vote on the triggering of article 50. Will they use this opportunity to block the process? Almost certainly not."

"Of the 650 MPs, 479 are reckoned to have backed remain (including over half of Conservative MPs). So there was, prior to the referendum, a parliamentary majority in favour of remaining."

"But things have changed since 23 June. For one thing, elected representatives were shown to be out of touch with their voters: 421 of 574 English and Welsh parliamentary constituencies voted to leave."

"Voting against a referendum result generated by many of their own voters is not something many MPs would willingly countenance doing."

"The most parliament seems likely to do is to impose procedural conditions on the prime minister."

"Yet even then, it is hard to see how MPs can materially affect the final outcome. Article 50 lays down a two-year deadline. Once a deal is struck, they will face a choice between whatever Theresa May has achieved and no deal at all."

"It’s not as if politics was held in high regard before the referendum. I shudder to think what would happen if, following a unique democratic moment that mobilised the population in a way even elections fail to, a parliament that had approved the legislation providing for the vote decided to overturn it because it had come up with the “wrong” answer.

And so to the final irony. The chances are this ruling will not halt Brexit, but further legitimise it. A judgment hailed by remainers will, ultimately, serve merely to place a parliamentary stamp of approval on an outcome they oppose."

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