Brexit: confused? You will be
Updated: Jan 13
What is Brexit? Accepted it’s the UK leaving the European Union but even there nobody really understands what that means in detail and perhaps there’s the rub. Leaving the European central policy making unit (for want of a better description) may be given but what is meant by Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, Full Brexit?
Let’s go back to the beginning
What Brexit actually began with was a way, once and for all, to remove from the party in Government an ideological split that has dogged the Conservative Party for decades. Some in the Tory Party are pro-Europe and others’ anti. Each political party, from time to time, tends to have its internal squabbles that may spill over, for the Tories this one had gone on for decades. The then leader of the Conservative Party, and UK Prime Minister, David Cameron; sort then to settle the debate once and for all. In effect he took his own party’s internal argument to the nation.
The terms of the referendum never made the result binding and perhaps shows more than anything that those in charge of drafting the Act never truly believed they would lose. Why would you need to make the outcome binding if the outcome was to do nothing and continue as before? Then Prime Minster David Cameron may well go down in history as the man who unwittingly took us out of the European Union. In truth the result came as a shock to just about everyone; from both sides of the campaign, the press and media, the experts in the field and even those that voted – and many that didn’t.
Two thirds of 18-25 voted to remain and more than half of over 65 voted to leave. Some regions voted stay, some leave. All in all quite a mixed bag of results. Incidentally only 64% of under 25s voted (90% of over 65s). Those with the longest life expectancy, with or without the EU, have seen their wishes over-written by those with the memories of pre-European Union and, to some extent, the hardships of the middle of the last century. Who knows most and who has the most to win/lose is as much about your political preference as it is about your historical perspective, your current perception and your age.
Since the result there have been various appeals, and a push for people wanting a second referendum. Those appealing are saying they would like a re-vote because:
They didn’t mean it, it was a protest vote or they didn’t vote because they thought the UK would stay in the EU. Whatever the reason you can’t keep going until you get the “right” result. Can you? Well in Ireland and Denmark that’s exactly what they did when there was a referendum to adopt the Lisbon, Nice and Maastricht treaties
Originally Article 50 was to be triggered under Royal Prerogative, that being where Ministers act on behalf of the nation under the guidelines laid out for it. In other words every time a Minister or Government representative has to make a decision he/she does not need to go back and ask Parliament to approve it.
The challenge in the Supreme Court found that the Government does not have the right to trigger Article 50, instead it would require approval by the Houses of Parliament. This was the easy part, now delivering the desired outcome is the piece that has seen Minister resign, New parliamentary parties formed, MPs change party loyalty and a wholesale change in the UK representation at the EU.
So does this mean Brexit may not happen? Well in practice yes that could be the case. There will, of course, be those parliamentarians who continue to vote against it, as per the wishes of their local electorate and those who vote on their own preference. However, it would take a very brave Member of Parliament to go against the electorate surely?
It comes down to the will of the people and what is the Sovereignty of the State. Here is the irony. The Sovereignty of the UK resides in the House of Parliament in Westminster. Many of those campaigning for Brexit, and one would argue many of their supporters, want repatriation of Sovereignty and for the UK to be ruled by Westminster and the UK devolved Assemblies; not Strasbourg, not Brussels. So it should come as no surprise then that Westminster’s Houses of Parliament have to discuss and agree it. In other words referring this back to the Houses of Parliament is exactly what the Brexiters voted for!
The next General Election, according to the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011, is not until 2020, but that may change. If the Government doesn’t lose a Vote of Confidence then timing will be very interesting as the face of UK politics is likely to change once again forever. Not forgetting the Boundary Commission changes will also change the UK political landscape at the same time:
Whatever happens next in Brexit is yet to be decided. Most certainly there will be many more twists and turns and a long way to go. But it could all have been so easily avoided had the man in charge of trying to settle an internal dispute thought it through before lobbing a hand-grenade into the hen coupe and then running away.
The entire mess that is Brexit really comes down to one thing. Those in power never thought they would lose. They never thought it through and they never considered the consequences. David Cameron may have accidentally opened the door to exit the EU but he did it while asleep at the wheel