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Archive for February, 2017

Thoughts on the logic of Brexit

May I suggest that it is arguable that to adopt the result of a referendum as definitive and final is counter to the principles of a parliamentary democracy?   That is the logical implication of the judgment of the majority of the Supreme Court in the matter of Miller  ([2017] WLR(D) 53, [2017] UKSC 5).

Leaving to one side the question of whether or not the Referendum was intended to be binding – and, indeed whether voters were made aware of that, the words used in the Referendum Question being “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”[my emphasis] – the Court made it clear that Parliament is paramount.

The OED defines democracy as “Government by the people”.  The people, not merely a majority but all of them.  That is why we delegate the task of ruling us to our choice of Members of Parliament.  It is not simply an oratorical flourish when an elected Member proclaims that she or he will represent all the constituency, those who voted for and those who voted against, to say nothing of those who did not vote at all.

The duty of a Member of Parliament was described in the great speech given by Edmund Burke to the electors of Bristol, in which he distinguished representation from delegation. The MP represents the interests of his constituents, not their opinions.  That is what he or she was elected to do, albeit on the basis of his or her declared political opinions.

In the Referendum on the European Union, the People have spoken.  Perhaps, but roughly half of them have said one thing and half the other.  Let it be clear, the decision has been the decision of the Government and now the House of Commons, not the People.  Seemingly, that is what the Supreme Court has prescribed.

At least we can be grateful that there is an Article 50.  In similar circumstances, in the 1860s, a bitter civil war in the United States of America, the American Union if you will, compelled the Confederate States to remain by force.  We are more enlightened now.  Tomorrow was another day.

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