Brexit -v- UK Parliamentary Democracy


May seem like it has nothing to do with an evolution of Populism within the Democrat Party. But bear with me …

“Well. I wasn’t going to say much. But a friend asked me last night what I thought about Brexit, in the context of what I thought about Trump. So. A few thoughts.

A referendum is a referendum. It is a glorified, unbinding opinion poll. You can’t spend forty years whining about Parliamentary sovereignty, only then to say it counts for nothing when it doesn’t suit you to apply it.

As a matter of British constitutional law, the UK Parliament remains the supreme legislative authority in Great Britain. Any and all legislative and executive adaptations to the governance of Great Britain flowing from the European Referendum of 2016 were always going to have to go through Parliament.

Now. There are several ways forward.

The present Government could simply run a test vote through Parliament, to see if the current Parliament was prepared to give effect to Brexit, in a manner commensurate with the wishes of the British electorate, as expressed in the Brexit vote.

If that test vote failed, Parliamentary parties could then negotiate to hold a General Election, allowing the people of the UK the opportunity to choose a new Parliament the people felt truly reflected what they wanted to do with Brexit going forward.

But, but, but, you wail. What about the Fixed Terms Parliament Act 2011? Personally, I’d prefer to wail: But, but, but, why doesn’t Jennifer Lawrence return my telephone calls? But that’s a personal choice.

The Fixed Terms Parliament Act does not preclude early General Elections. It allows them under two conditions:

* By a motion ‘that there shall be an early parliamentary general election’ passed by at least two thirds of the House of Commons (s 2(1)).

* By a formal no confidence motion, in the statutory form prescribed in the Act (that ‘this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government’), passed by a simple majority of those voting (s 2(3)). If no alternative government can be formed within 14 days which can command confidence, Parliament is dissolved and an early election held.

No Prime Minister is going to accommodate the wishes of anyone by succumbing to a successful motion of no confidence against them. So, option two above is a non-starter.

The only other alternative to option one above is repeal of the Fixed Terms Parliament Act. The attraction of which is that it requires only a simple majority of the House of Commons.

The downside is that it might also require passage through the House of Lords. The latter is unlikely, given the current composition of the House of Lords.

There have been one or two of the more more rabid, meat-eating, conservative talking heads who have spoken of the Prime Minister creating 1,000 peers to force passage of whatever through the House of Lords.

Whatever one may think of Theresa May, she is not going to upend the unwritten constitution of Great Britain, held in place as it is by a system of fragile political conventions, by driving a snow plough through the edifice.

[You can read more of the constitutional complexities of the above here.]

The bottom line in all of this is that the immediate answer is going to be political. Not some constitutional contrivance. That is the beauty, the agony and the frustration of Great Britain’s constitutional balance.

The Americans pride themselves on a thorough yet reasonably simple fixed system of checks and balances to ensure that polity survives temporary political anguish. Which is why I’m not worried about the outcome of next week’s US Presidential Election. Whatever happens, we will survive. Gas will still get pumped at the station.

But the British edifice, at the end of the day, comes down to gentlefolk of good intention and bad, staring each other down, over cups of tea or glasses of whiskey, in tea rooms or clubs, and working things out.

In which regard, my tuppence worth is this: All you who say the Brexit vote was wrong. No. You’re wrong. There was a vote. There was nothing rigged. No-one stood in the way of polling booths. People listened, rolled their eyes, laughed, cried, paid money, whatever. But, they voted in a free vote.

‘We’ may regret it. We may think it an awful, stupid, silly decision. We may wish more money had been spent on Remain than Leave. We may wish there had been more information than Boris Johnson. But it was a free vote. The people spoke. And the people are not ‘wrong.’

The outcome of all that tea and whiskey drinking should be to find the least disruptive way in which to offer the people the opportunity to determine how their Brexit vote is now implemented.

Meanwhile, what do I think personally about Brexit? Had I been in the UK (as a dual British-American citizen), I would have voted to Remain.

Simply put. You can have relatives who tell you that the girl you married is bad for you. It may well be true. It may have been true before you married her. After you married her. Ten years in. Twenty years in. But, after forty years, when there are kids and grandkids. Dependency. A house, where five different families gather every Christmas. You know. You just shrug. And get on with it.

The European Union was/is a forty-year marriage with Great Britain. It’s a bit late and incredibly harmful to be having a mid-life crisis after forty years. And we’re now seeing how dumb a decision it was. No-one has the first clue how to make it work.

Back in the late Seventies, when we were only five years into the ‘marriage,’ I was one of a minority across all British political parties who opposed full union. We took the view that there was no way you could legislatively force incredibly different peoples into a political union. We preferred a confederation of nation states, with preferred trading arrangements, but sovereignty still intact.

But. That was forty years ago.

All of which said. What has developed across the world since then, for better or worse, is a form of global capitalism, financed and held in place by banking. I know. Sounds like Trump, right? But, even those who avidly support the notion of people holding hands in political union know that economic union has been a field day for bankers.

And bankers always come out on top.

I look at the economic and political history of this century. What I see is a general move towards political, economic, trading openness and union across the world. Subjected to an almighty hiccup by the Great Recession in 2008.

After which, there was a period of leftish rebellion (Arab Spring, Occupy, Hong Kong). Which dwindled. And now a right-wing, working folks, left-behind backlash.

But, throughout all of the developments, I find the fingerprints of international banking. For example, for all his much-touted outsider status, and railing against the globalist, banking elite, the Trump campaign CEO (Stephen Bannon) is a former Goldman Sachs banker, as was Mrs. Cruz. While Nigel Farage made his money in the City of London.

As much as I think Brexit was ‘bad’ and Trump would be worse, trust me, the bankers will find a way to absorb both, and make them work. Just maybe not for the benefit of you and me … ”

[Facebook comments here.]


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