In the continuing mess that is Brexit, some very foul smells are arising from the pile of awfulness that it is. To date, there is no solid agreement on what to do and which direction to go in. The closest agreement that can be found amongst our politicians is that a ‘No Deal Brexit’ is not acceptable. However, the front runner for Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said many a time that he would be prepared to leave with a no-deal.
UK democracy is arguably centered around the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty. That is the UK Parliament is the ultimate source of lawmaking in the country and what it passes is the law and nobody of power is greater than Parliament. Many votes have been had in the House of Commons regarding Brexit and there have been multiple times that a No Deal Brexit is not the will of the House. However, there is a lurking possibility that Parliament could be bypassed by a procedure known as proroguing Parliament. This is where the Government decides and the Prime Minister advises the Monarch that Parliament’s term has come to a close and therefore it is no longer sitting.
This means that the new incoming Prime Minister could use this method to prevent the House of Commons passing any legislation that prevents and blocks a No Deal Brexit as Parliament would have come to a close and wouldn’t be in session. The only ways to prevent this would be Parliament while it is still sitting passes legislation saying this procedure is not allowed or the Monarch refuses the request of the Prime Minister to close Parliament. Both of these are very unlikely to happen.
First of all, the UK will have a new Prime Minister in less than 2 weeks and they are very unlikely to bring such a Bill to House and as the Government is in charge of what Bills are debated during a session the Opposition can’t overrule them unless there are a lot of rebels within the Government and they vote with the Opposition.
Secondly the Monarch i.e. the Queen, is extremely unlikely to refuse the Prime Minister’s request to close Parliament as the Queen has never involved herself personally with politics and has acted on advice of Prime Ministers and Governments and in refusing the request, that would show a level of political participation that the Queen keeps herself above.
Constitutionally though the proroguing of Parliament is perfectly legal and constitutional as there is no source in the constitution that disallows it. It may come to pass that if the proroguing of Parliament does occur, the Government are taken to Court and the Supreme Court come to a different ruling. However, the nature of the Supreme Court’s powers means that Governments and/or Parliament are not bound in law by their decisions.
It is not only the possibility of proroguing of Parliament that is affecting our democracy; it is this transition of power from one Prime Minister to the next. The public has had no say in which candidates were to be put forward; that was done by Tory MPs and the public will have no vote at all on which candidate they want to come to the office of Prime Minister. That decision will be taken by a vote of members of the Tory party, roughly 160,000 people who are by no means a representative cross-section of British society.
This way that a UK Prime Minister can come into power without contesting an election really doesn’t make UK democracy look very good at all and as a British person, I find it very embarrassing that it can happen at all. The method should be that if a Prime Minister resigns in the middle of their term then their respective party chooses a successor and a General Election is called there and then for the public to have a say. This is what should happen the moment Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister. Annoyingly because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, this is not easy. Mainly because most Tory MPs are afraid of contesting an election as they’re scared they’ll lose and lose bad or bigly as Trump would say.
There is one small glimmer of hope in this storm of horror and that is the newly agreed position of the Labour Party who has now committed itself to have a People’s Vote in regards to Brexit and whether to leave with the deal in place, leave with no deal or to remain in the EU. Labour has also announced in such a vote they would campaign to Remain. But the prospect of a People’s Vote is still some way off because unless the Government agree to bring the motion to House the vote to put the new referendum in legislation won’t happen and unless enough Tory MPs rebel and vote for the motion if it comes to the floor of the House it’ll never pass.
Another issue is, and this is forgotten in the media, is that the Scottish Parliament has not given its permission to a No Deal or indeed to leave the EU. It has never happened since the Scottish Parliament came into being that the UK Parliament has ignored it and carried on regardless. It is only in theory that the UK Parliament is superior to the Scottish Parliament but in practice, they must be seen as equals because if they are not, then the very principles of the Union fall apart. It is not constitutionally sound for one elected body to overrule and ignore the will of another elected body. If the UK Government are not careful then Scottish Independence is all but inevitable and the Scottish Government may just ignore the current procedure for obtaining independence and may carry on with it how it wishes to. I feel they’d be well within their right to do so as they could come back and say “well you ignored us on Brexit so we’re ignoring you on independence”.
UK democracy has held reasonably firm for centuries since the UK came into being in 1707 but it truly is in danger of having irreparable damage done to it. The very Union itself could break and I don’t think any Leave voter wanted that.
Democracy is supposed to be able to mold to the times it is in; democracy in the UK now is not like what it was in 1707 but democracy changes and adapts as a theory to the society it is in and the overall social changes that occur with it. The problem here in the UK right now is that democratic principles are being overlooked and ignored by many in power and are not allowing democratic expressions of the people to take place. Parliament is in deadlock as to what to do and how to move forward to with sheer logic the most obvious thing to do is to return the issue to the people and allow Parliament to stay in session so that the issues can be addressed.
UK democracy is feeling its poison. I can only hope that an antidote can be found soon.
P.S…. Is not canceling Brexit just to see the look on Nigel Farage’s face a good enough reason to do it? I mean he’s had a milkshake thrown at him but let’s throw something meaningful at him.