The High Court ruled yesterday that Parliament must vote on the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
The government were attempting to pervert the constitution of the United Kingdom, and thanks to Judicial oversight, were stopped before inviting a dangerous, tyrannical precedent.
The Advisory Referendum
Referendums in the UK are not binding. They are advisory. I quote from the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution Report of 2009-10 ‘Referendums in the United Kingdom‘;
“We recognise that because of the sovereignty of Parliament, referendums cannot be legally binding in the UK, and are therefore advisory. However, it would be difficult for Parliament to ignore a decisive expression of public opinion.”
As Barber, Hickman and King have written on the UK Constitutional Law Association website, the only way the government can say something and then do it, without consulting the legislature – Parliament – is by Royal Prerogative. But this autocratic use of power cannot be exercised where a statute already exists granting Parliament the right to oversight. This is clearly the case for Referendums.
This is not a subversion of democracy. This is representative democracy. Members of Parliament have been elected by us the people to be our representatives. They use their decision-making abilities to rule the land justly and on our behalf.
Those in opposition to yesterday’s judgement invite a system of governance where parties compete at a general election, one is elected, and then simply enacts it’s entire manifesto and anything it mentioned doing during the election campaign without ever consulting Parliament, let alone going to a vote.
Even the most ardent ‘Brexiteers’ surely can’t actually believe that the decision on 23 June to leave the European Union was a clear and simple choice that can be unambiguously carried out. That decision raises myriad other choices that will have to be made. Will we attempt to remain a part of the customs unions? Will we attempt to remain part of the EEC? Will current EU nationals be allowed to stay in the UK indefinitely? Will all EU law currently on the UK lawbook be repealed, or all kept, or gone through piece by piece keeping and repealing? Show me the referendum votes that answer these questions. There aren’t any. So government will make these choices alone, as a monarch, as a tyrant, as a dictator?
Three Branches of Government
Executive, legislature, judiciary. This is representative democracy. The political system we are so fortunate to have in the UK.
The executive (the elected government) formulate laws and present them to the legislature.
The legislature (Parliament) deliberate on these laws, scrutinise and amend them and vote on them, passing or rejecting them.
The judiciary (courts and judges) enforce these laws. They also review decisions made by both other branches of government and consider their legality against written constitutional documents, statute and precedent.
The Fourth Estate
This is a mundane decision that anyone with a cursory knowledge of the constitution will have seen coming. The news for me is how laughable accusations that the UK press is somehow excessively ‘liberal’ or part of a ‘leftwing conspiracy’ are.
Just look at these front pages from today’s papers.
How have the pronouncements of those who claim to shape and reflect public discourse swung so far away from accuracy? How can our press, who many believe to be the unofficial ‘fourth estate’ of democracy – providing oversight of the other branches and education of the populace – be so in favour of being ruled by decree by a government that has not been democratically elected? Think about how far to the right you have to be to actively call for representative parliamentary democracy to be overridden for the next four years, so that a wholly unelected dictator, backed by her volonté générale can rule at her sole discretion.
“Take back control!” they all crooned. What a sham.