Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Time to Get On With Brexit
I'm sure I speak for many Brexiters when I say that I am over the whole Article 50 case and the ruling in the Supreme Court yesterday. In part this is perhaps because we knew the result before it happened and so it was priced in to the equation. But I would say that it is more because the decision, with which I still fundamentally disagree along with the three dissenting Law Lords yesterday, is made sufficiently narrowly to make it a non event anyway. The courts should never have got involved in any event, but as it is they only got involved at the margins.
The politics of the situation will now resume and the politics have not altered however much remainers may have been pinning their hopes on their lordships. Because the politics is that the country voted for Brexit last June and, if anything, the country's view has hardened in that direction. The sky has failed to fall in and the economy is still going great guns. Reality and reason is even starting to dawn in Brussels, especially since the prime minister's well received speech last week laying out her approach. The people of this country are broadly fair minded and they want to see the majority view prevail. That, after all, is democracy.
All of which means that it would be a brave MP or even a peer who seeks to stymie the democratically expressed will of the British people. Britain is leaving the EU. That is our settled will. Parliament has every right to question the government over the deal it does and to demand regular updates about how negotiations are proceeding. It definitively does not have the right to prevent Article 50 being invoked. That was settled by the British people last year.
The Government will bring forward a simple act of parliament to enable it to invoke Article 50. Various amendments will be tabled, not least by the SNP who are desperately trying to play their usual game of grievance to try and shoehorn their way into this matter. They will fail. The matter of Scotland is settled and our membership of the EU is settled too. Scotland cannot have it both ways.
Gina Miller, the lead litigant who won her case yesterday, has sought from the moment she won the initial case to claim that this was about empowering parliament. That has certainly been the outcome of her case but it was not the original intent. That was simply to try and find a way, any way, to delay Brexit in the hope that something turned up. In that she has failed. In fact she has done worse than that. The politics of the situation, the realpolitik, has ensured that MPs will find it difficult to vote against the British public. That is as it should be and is how it was always going to be. For all of the silly talk about referendums being only advisory in the British constitution (which is theoretically true) good luck with telling that to the public and not being howled down. It's always been a nonsense point anyway. I would by no means advocate their regular use in deciding things but on issues of major constitutional importance where a simple yes and no answer can be given then they are an elegant solution. How a general election decided by the electorate choosing between three or more parties and on a range of issues is supposed to decide such matters is a mystery. But then of course that is the preferred method for our political classes. Its how the EU was created and how it manages to maintain the pretence that its institutions command widespread support.
The Government has played its hand cleverly and skilfully. Parliament would be well advised now to vote Article 50 through. There has been enough delay already. Mrs May and her ministers have marshalled their arguments and thinking and are ready to proceed. Now is the time for them to do so.