Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Article 50 debate begins

Debate has begun on the bill giving the government the authority to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and thereby implement the referendum decision to take the UK out of the European Union.

If Britain is to remain any sort of functioning democracy this has to go through, and it will.

The credibility of our claim to be a country in whose government rests on the consent of the governed would be blown to bits if, after parliament voted six to one to call a referendum on EU membership, the government promised to implement what the referendum decided and more British people voted to leave than have ever voted in an election or referendum for any other party or cause, politicians were to fail to implement the majority decision.

I gather from several sources such as Conservative Home that Kenneth Clarke delivered a speech which even those who totally disagreed with him thought was brilliant.

But he will probably be the only Conservative who votes against triggering article 50.

There are apparently a huge number of amendments to the bill, some making legitimate points, others which amount to a filibuster or wrecking tactic.

But with the Conservatives almost united and Labour totally all over the shop, I expect the bill to get through the Commons either with no amendments or only with those acceptable to the government.

Noises from the House of Lords suggest their Lordships "get it" that defying the House of Commons on issues where the evidence suggest a majority of the people agreed with the peers rather than MPs is one thing, and something the Lords has got away with in the past, but for the unelected chamber to directly defy the people's wishes as expressed in a referendum would be a suicide mission.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of the bill. But it would be a brave man who was willing to bet his shirt against it becoming law and the Brexit process started before the end of March.

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