We are, as yet, a representative democracy. The referendum was advisory. Parliament, I believe, still has to make the decision about invoking Article 50 and leaving the EU. And given that the overwhelming majority of MPs are against leaving - and given that the Leave majority was so slim, at 52%, with many already regretting their decision - it's clear that this isn't over yet.
From letters to the Times today [£]...Professor Michael Sheppard:
It is inconceivable that many of those who voted Leave had a real appreciation of the whirlwind that they were sowing. How does one otherwise explain a Brexit vote from Cornwall, so heavily reliant on EU funding and in Sunderland, whose employment revolves around a firm whose location there is at least partly dependent on the UK’s location within the EU free trade area?
In the circumstances it would be an act of monumental irresponsibility to regard the referendum as anything other than guidance. Parliament is sovereign and does not need to follow the dictates of a single referendum, a snapshot from one moment in time.
I admit to and regret voting Leave; I suspect many others feel the same. Why? Mine was a protest vote in solidarity with so many in forgotten rural and blighted industrial England, disenfranchised by both a Londoncentric and European political system that offers little to the unemployed and working poor. I believe the protest vote was so strong that it swung the outcome. Corbyn does not represent the working poor and long-term unemployed any more than Cameron does, perhaps even less, hence people ignored them both.
To those like myself who voted Leave as a protest, we made a big mistake...
Charles Flint, QC:
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty permits a member state to give notice to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
The main article of faith of those proposing withdrawal is that it is necessary to reassert the sovereignty of parliament over our own laws. Yet the assumption appears to be that the irreversible step of giving notice under Article 50, thus necessarily requiring fundamental change to our laws and constitution, should be effected without parliamentary approval. This is in contrast to the position under the European Union Act 2011 under which a change to the treaty on European Union, agreed between member states, would have required approval both by referendum and by act of parliament.
Where are those members prepared to assert the power of parliament to approve the giving of notice to withdraw from the European Union under Article 50?
And Lucy Fisher, also in the Times [£]:
New UK legislation to trigger the formal treaty mechanism that would take Britain out of the EU will be required to facilitate Brexit, top QCs have warned.
The requirement for a new law could scupper the move to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which sets out the legal process for a nation’s secession from the EU, because a majority of MPs backed Remain and could in principle block the Leave result in the Commons.
Geoffrey Robertson, QC, founder of Doughty Street Chambers, toldThe Times: “People think Brexit is a done deal; it’s not. Our democracy rests on parliamentary sovereignty, which is in the keeping of MPs, who make or break laws, and peers, who can block laws.
“Before Brexit can be triggered, parliament has to act by repealing the legislation that keeps Britain in the EU. And in that vote MPs are entitled to act according to their conscience and what is best for Britain.”
He predicted that MPs representing London and Scottish seats would likely “have no moral difficulty” in rejecting the result because their constituents did not vote for it. He insisted that others could “quite properly decide that by the time the repeal comes before parliament, probably in November, that Brexit would turn out badly for Britain, and decide to vote against it”.
He added: “It is novel in British constitutional tradition to be bound by referenda. Many countries have a provision for referenda. But we don’t have a written constitution, all we have are constitutional conventions, based on traditions and history, and they don’t make provision for referenda.”
Another leading QC also said that new legislation would be required. Charles Flint, QC, from Blackstone Chambers, says in a letter to The Times published today: “Under the European Union Act 2011 . . . a change to the treaty on European Union, agreed between member states, would have required approval both by referendum and by act of parliament.”
Meanwhile, a row has broken out over the timing of the invocation of Article 50. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and other leading figures in the EU have demanded that Britain exit the union swiftly. However Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, who backed Remain, said the decision was in Britain’s hands.
He told Peston on Sunday on ITV: “There is no imperative upon us to serve the notice at any particular time.”
So another scenario could be added to those suggested by the Guardian commenter I quoted in the previous post: Boris Johnson could find himself as Prime Minister, presiding over a House of Commons vote that throws out his Brexit proposals - leaving him effectively screwed by Parliament over the main reason for his promotion to the leadership.
But there are enough possible future scenarios to make your head spin...