Article 50 ruling follows a monumental misjudgment by Theresa May

It is difficult not to see today’s High Court ruling as anything other than a disaster for Theresa May. The first big decision she made as PM turns out to have been a monumental misjudgment. She has been ruled out of order and, unless an appeal is successful, she’ll have to go cap in hand to Parliament.

Mike Smithson of Political Betting put it very well:

Tim Farron commented:

It is disappointing that this government was so intent on undermining Parliamentary sovereignty and democratic process that they forced this decision to be made in the court, but I welcome the news today that MPs will get to vote on the triggering of Article 50.

…So far May’s team have been all over the place when it comes to prioritising what is best for Britain, and it’s time they pull their socks up and start taking this seriously.

Nick Clegg tweeted:

If you are in any doubt about the ramifications of this decision, then just look at what happened to the pound when the news came through:

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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69 Comments

  • David Evershed 3rd Nov '16 - 7:03pm

    David Evershed3rd Nov ’16 – 6:58pm

    Liberal Democrats should be careful not to support a block on giving notice of leaving the EU under Article 50 since the result of the referendum should be respected.

    Once parliament ignores the result of referendums there is no democracy and people will take direct action.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 3rd Nov '16 - 7:08pm

    I think it is reasonable to require the government to present a credible strategy for exit, at least in broad terms, before Parliament gives consent.

    I don’t believe that public will was that it should be done unplanned or badly.

  • So, the pound barely moved a cent up? What exactly is that supposed to be proof of?
    And we’re the ones who’re usually hammering Brexiteers for their short-termism, lmao.
    What an absolute joke.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Nov '16 - 7:42pm

    I doubt it will affect her much in the polls.

    I also get frustrated by this accusation of Theresa May not having a brexit strategy: she has one: to reduce immigration and have as close trading relationship as possible. People seemed to have thought she should have all the answers on day one. Yes appointing Liam Fox was probably a mistake, but that’s all it was.

    People seem to think she should announce all her red lines in public. If she said she wants to reduce immigration plus maintain single market membership people will mock her, so they don’t really deserve a full response. The public do, but there’s no evidence the public want her to announce her full strategy in public.

  • Barry Snelson 3rd Nov '16 - 7:50pm

    There is a grave danger, within these soaring invocations of Parliamentary sovereignty, that a little over half of the voters will angrily view these steps for ‘scrutiny’ as camouflage for cheating them out of their choice.
    My fear is that the language now being traded by both sides (racists! bigots! elitists! traitors! etc) is the stuff that demagogues thrive on and these fires of passion, once lit, are hard to extinguish.

  • Don’t forget it was also a monumental mistake by the not so dear departed Cameron. D.W.D. late of this parish and the Bullingdon Club.

    Makes a mess and then you can’t see him for dust.

  • John Littler 3rd Nov '16 - 9:23pm

    This puts the EU issue firmly to the top of the news agenda for some time which will benefit Olney’s campaign in the Richmond by election.

    It also gives the new MP an additional influence on the EU issue, whereas the Heathrow runway is decades away.

    The timetable of triggering Article 50 could easily be put back now, which makes the possibility of a general election to appear, to allow the cards to be thrown up in the air again.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Nov '16 - 10:17pm

    OK fair enough – let’s let Parliament have the final say. That’s a strong argument in constitutional terms.

    But we should expect that every MP, of both Houses, who voted for the referendum to take place, and that is an overwhelming majority, should vote for Article 50 too. How is it possible that someone could be in favour of having a referendum but against accepting its result?

    As Wikipedia describes the process:

    “The European Union Referendum Act 2015 (c 36) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made provision for a referendum to be held in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, on whether they should remain a member of the European Union. The bill was introduced to the House of Commons by Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 28 May 2015.The Act was subsequently passed by a ratio of six to one in the Commons, and approved by the House of Lords on 14 December 2015”

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Nov '16 - 11:07pm

    David Evershed, no Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian would take this newly confirmed responsibility so crassly as simply to refuse to allow Article 50 through, whatever the terms of Brexit proposed, in defiance of the Referendum result. However, as the full economic and other harms which would result from Brexit become increasingly clear to the public, it is entirely possible that the small majority of those who voted Leave will diminish and be seen through polling to be doing so, so that if another referendum were to be held the result could be reversed. Since our Party believes that Brexit would be bad for the country and that continued EU membership, albeit modified, is best, it will be worth our campaigning this winter to assert this viewpoint to the country with all the growing evidence that is available. If the public perceptions change, this should be reflected in parliamentary voting, Article 50 might then but only then be discarded, and a new revised agreement sought to be worked out with our EU partners.

  • Roger Billins 3rd Nov '16 - 11:08pm

    What the Daily Mail and many Brexiteers have said about today’s judicial decision reveals their true nature-they despise the rule of law and parliamentary democracy and given the history of that newspaper we should not be surprised. These are historic times and we live in a divided society. We cannot be wishy washy. We must say as it is because if we don’t we will go the same way as Weimar. Richmond is now key.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Nov '16 - 11:20pm

    What’s “saying it how it is” got the radical left for decades? In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn getting hammered in the polls. We need to respect the electorate, not think the right are a fifth column that must be ignored.

  • ‘I think it is reasonable to require the government to present a credible strategy for exit, at least in broad terms, before Parliament gives consent’

    Is that what this is really about,for the past 40 years many in parliament were happy for the EU to subvert parliamentary sovereignty.

    Let’s see this for what it is, a chance to block, water down,put all sorts of conditions on Brexit and to bypass the electorate. If it succeeds in subverting the will of the people that don’t be surprised by the backlash

  • @David Evershed & Peter Martin – It is perfectly possible to respect the referendum result and still be against invoking Article 50 at the present time. Just like you can be for joining the Euro but not join because the time isn’t right or the rate of exchanges isn’t in our favour…

  • So many people second guessing what MPs will do. There are many things the electorate may think they want, capital punishment for one, a massively devalued pound and inflation for another.

  • Lib MPs should vote for Article 50. That’s democracy. But I hope they also vote for amendments on staying in the single market, staying in the customs union and a referendum on the final deal.

  • Ethicsgradient 4th Nov '16 - 2:31am

    @RBH,

    Hi if amendments and addons are as you have described, then it would not be acceptable to the large majority of leave voters (not just the hard brexiters). Because it would amount to still being in Europe while not bei g in Europe.

    There would be outrage and a belief that the referendum result was being undermined.

    May would have to call an immediate election and you would see a large Tory (Eurosceptic) majority and significant UKIP representation in a new parliament.

  • @ethicsgradient. The referendum was what it was – it was not a referendum on immigration or in many senses ‘being in Europe ‘. No one gets to issue a definitive interpretation of what those voters intended by their vote.

    If it turns out that the majority of voters actually want a hard Brexit then they can achieve that in the traditional fashion – vote for a party that supports it, or offers a referendum offering it.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Nov '16 - 8:29am

    @Eddie Sammon

    “I also get frustrated by this accusation of Theresa May not having a brexit strategy: she has one: to reduce immigration and have as close trading relationship as possible.”

    Eddie, those are AIMS, not a strategy. Actually her Strategy was that Britain should remain in the EC!

    Similarly, the use of the word ‘Strategy in terms of Brexit is wholly inappropriate unless you really want to take ten years to get there. The word is ‘tactics’. Teresa May has no tactics, either. But then what tactics did she use to get the immigration down to meet David Cameron’s annual targets when she was Britain’s most hopeless Home Secretary ever?

  • This isn’t, and shouldn’t ever be, about stopping Article 50 being invoked. It’ s about reminding the Government that despite the referendum result they remain accountable to the people via Parliament .

    By my god, the fury in the right wing press this morning……

  • Personally I hope there is an early GE and that gives people a chance to target pro Leave MPs. Play the Kippers at their own game.

  • Sorry – Even if you interpret delaying Article 50 as a tactic (which I believe Gina Miller whenshe says their intention was not that), then from many Lib Dems’ point of view that must be a good thing, in that it is likely the next few months will show fairly clearly what difficulties various options will play out, and will give people a real informed choice on what Leave is likely to mean in practice. In particular it is likely to show how tough the economic effects will be, and that the disproportionate hit will be taken by the less well-off in society. The more considered and politically aware might also realise that it is quiye useful to have law and regulation stemming from the same sources internationally when we work in an interdependent world. Those who hanker after “taking back control” should realise that regulation is essential in an urban heavily populated world, and by taking the EU out of the equation does not mean an end to regulations individuals may not want. Finally, and again many people are thinking twice about this – that we do need immigrants, and that we do benefit from free movement as well as other Europeans!

    So, in summary, Parliament’s discussions around the run up to Article 50 may trigger more rethinking, and a deeper understanding of many factors. The trouble with the referendum and a yes-no decision was that it in many ways led to an emotion driven result, driven, of course, very unhelpfully, by the phobic media.

  • Tony Dawson
    Theresa may have been “the most hopeless Home Secretary ever” but don’t neglect the role of Cameron in setting a ludicrous type of target in “net migration”. In particular in combination with “gig economy” style employment practices to give the appearance of economic wellbeing without the rebalancing which the country so desperately needed, but became too difficult for Osborne and others to achieve!

  • The democratic will of the people seems to be the totem that underpins all the arguments, but is, or has, opinion shifted in the UK. The leave vote won by a margin of 1,269,501
    It would be interesting for someone to organise a website where people who voted to leave and who have now changed there minds could register this. If 700,000 registered this change of opinion, what is then the democratic will of the people? How would this be received. That would put a cat amongst the pigeons. A challenge for somebody more tech savvi than me.

  • John, That is far too sensible.

  • Roger Billins 4th Nov '16 - 12:10pm

    So as we speak, a Tory M.P. resigns. Please can the Labour and Lib Dem leadership discuss urgently a deal for us not to fight Sleaford in return for Labour not fighting Richmond. Too much is now at stake for tribalism.

  • Roger Billins – Spot on. Chilling warnings about Weimar etc. are far from fanciful. Liberalism nearly died in the thirties. It mustn’t happen in this decade.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 4th Nov '16 - 12:30pm

    Roger Billins – I think people in Sleaford should have the opportunity to vote Lib Dem, just as people in Richmond Park should have the chance to vote Labour if they wish to. People in both Constituencies may decide to vote tactically, but this must be their decision, not forced on them by some “pact” between parties.

  • Roger Billins 4th Nov '16 - 12:36pm

    Catherine Jane Crossland. I get the point and in normal times I would agree but these aren’t normal times. There is only one issue that matters at the moment and normal political considerations should be put aside. I think but stand to be corrected that there were similar popular front pacts in by elections in the 1930’s between Liberals and Labour.

  • Sue Sutherland 4th Nov '16 - 3:05pm

    Roger, I think Catherine is correct. Just because Labour don’t stand a candidate doesn’t mean their supporters will vote Lib Dem and vice versa. Horses and water come to mind. Voters are also quite skilled in tactical voting, but that fell apart after the coalition resulting in the loss of many of our MPs.

  • David Pearce 4th Nov '16 - 3:47pm

    Monumental misjudgement? surely not. All the legal opinion I see says that the result was inevitable, that the court had to come down on the side of parliament against the crown. The government must have known this, so it was not a misjudgement to fight the case but a tactical decision. They must have expected to lose, but clearly thought this path better than not trying. Given the rhetoric in the press against judges, presumably this would have been directed at the government for allowing parliament a vote. This way it isnt their fault. May is seen as trying to achieve a swift brexit.

  • David Evershed 4th Nov '16 - 4:03pm

    Katherine Pindar says
    “no Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian would take this newly confirmed responsibility so crassly as simply to refuse to allow Article 50 through, whatever the terms of Brexit proposed, in defiance of the Referendum result”

    Katherine – Do you include Lib Dem members of the House of Lords amonst the parliamentarians who would not defy the referendum result?

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Nov '16 - 4:36pm

    Thanks Tony. I just worry that people want her to give her near bottom lines and if she says something ambitious she will be mocked.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Nov '16 - 11:46pm

    David, I’d like it if you would kindly spell my name correctly, but to your query: I wouldn’t like decisions to be finally made by the unelected members of the House of Lords, and I have tweeted Nick Clegg on that very point. However, as Tim13 says, a delay might allow better choice on the issues, as the economic and other consequences of leaving become more apparent. I have been thinking myself that there will have in the end to be compromises and trade-offs on our relationship with the EU, but would the 27 members even accept the suggested ‘soft’ Brexit? We will have no power to choose the compromises once Article 50 is triggered, and so I believe the negotiations should resume once Brexit is denied. Hence my call for us to campaign this winter on making people aware that Brexit IS bad, so as to attain a majority for remaining. Even so, if that isn’t attained, or attained in time, I don’t see how any MP believing that Brexit is bad for the country could vote for it.

  • David Evershed 5th Nov '16 - 12:25pm

    Katharine, you say:

    1. no Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian would take this newly confirmed responsibility so crassly as simply to refuse to allow Article 50 through, whatever the terms of Brexit proposed, in defiance of the Referendum result.

    2. I don’t see how any MP believing that Brexit is bad for the country could vote for it.

    Are you suggesting Lib Dem MPs and Lords should abstain on any Article 50 trigger vote?

  • @Martin

    Are you seriously suggesting that in constituencies were the electorate voted for remain
    It is clear and simple, the MP should in accordance with their voters wishes and vote against invoking article 50
    However in Constituencies where the voters voted for Brexit, the MP should instead set aside their constituents instructions and instead examine their own conscience and judgement on whether to vote for article 50

    What kind of democracy is that? it’s a joke

  • @Martin

    And you wonder why Liberal Democrats are stuck on 8% of the polls.

    I had high hopes for the Libdems after the 2015 election and after Nick Clegg stood down as leader.
    I really thought that the party would learn from the past mistakes and move forward.
    Seems I was wrong.
    I am lost for words how a party that can have the word democrats in it and at the same time have an attitude towards the electorate, like yours, where you think it is perfectly acceptable for an MP to ignore the will of the people and those that they are elected to represent after the outcome of a referendum that parliamentarians themselves voted for and agreed to hold.
    It is astonishing.

    Now we hear from Clegg that the party is going to do all it can to block brexit, by means of amendments, using the unelected house of lords etc.
    If you think that the public is going to be impressed with that kind of behaviour then you are going to be sorely disappointed come the next General Election whenever that might be.
    In fact I will go as far to say that it would push even more people, who sat on the fence in the referendum, to come out for Brexit.

    All my life, I have only ever voted Labour or Liberal Democrat. Before recent events, I have always said, never in my days would i ever consider voting for the Tories.

    The farcical situation with Labour and Corbyn and the direction he is taking the party means I am unable to give Labour my vote at present.
    I had hoped that I would maybe have the option to vote Libdem again, after Clegg stood down and Laws and Alexander lost their seats. I was waiting to see how the party responded after Tim took over and the direction of travel. After seeing the parties contempt towards the electorate and towards those who voted for brexit, it is clear to me that it’s not a party that will get my vote whilst this attitude prevails.
    Over the last month, I have seriously considered that I might vote Tory, a thought that both saddens and shocks me at the same time.

    Strange days

  • @Martin

    “Why bother having elected representatives? If all they did was to act as functionaries who communicate the majority opinion”
    Why bother putting forward legislation for a referendum, Voting to hold a referendum, then choosing to ignore the electorate because you did not like the result that you got?
    Why ask the people in the first place?

    “It is you who has not figured out how liberal representative democracies work.”
    I know perfectly well how representative democracy works thank you very much.
    That is not what the in / out referendum was about though.
    The electorate was promised a referendum and they were told that the result would be final and that it would be honoured.
    MP’s signed up to that, they agreed to it and they voted to make it into legislation.
    Now, many probably believed that there was zero chance that the electorate would end up voting to leave the EU. But they did.
    Now MP’s from all parties need to honour that commitment that was made to the electorate.
    That is democracy.

  • If a sitting MP chooses to vote contrary to the wishes of a majority of his or her constituency, that majority has the option — should they choose to exercise it — of removing said MP at the next elections. That is democracy.

    Of course, it’s quite possible that the voters at that point may choose to consider other issues to be of greater importance, or that party divisions make it possible for the MP to disregard the wishes of a majority who cannot unit on a single opposing candidate.

  • @matt –
    “The electorate was promised a referendum and they were told that the result would be final and that it would be honoured.
    MP’s signed up to that, they agreed to it and they voted to make it into legislation.”

    Simples! The electorate were lied to, people deliberately only heard what they wanted to hear, people’s perceptions of how our Parliamentary democracy works being based on fundamentally flawed understandings.

    Parliament agreed to referendum as defined in the relevant Act and the notes provided to Parliament are explicit in that the result was advisory and not binding on Parliament.

    Whilst members of the government may have made statements committing the (current Conservative) government to certain actions, these statements were not and are not binding on Parliament, nor on any future government.

    As we’ve seen in the reaction to the recent court case, significant sections of the media will happily totally misrepresent facts to further their own agenda – whatever that might be. We’ve also seen just how ill-informed members of the public are both with respect to Brexit and how their own country is governed.

    What is very clear, whatever ‘Brexit’ Parliament actually agrees to, there will be many, who voted Leave, who will be dissatisfied, regardless of which way their MP actually voted.

    So if members of the government did make commitments to honour the result, it is only them who are bond by them and not other members of Parliament. So it is going to be possible for a government MP to honour their commitment and be thwarted by Parliament, as that is part-and-parcel of our system of democracy.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Nov '16 - 10:20pm

    Matt, these are complex issues that we are all struggling with, and I think you would be giving up on the Liberal Democrats a bit soon by being put off by arguments used here. We are all at least trying to work it out, thinking about it, and not just opting out as we could do by saying how the Lib Dem MPs vote won’t anyway affect the result. (David, maybe they will decide to abstain, but far be it from me to try to pressure them in any direction.)
    The difficulty is, as you, Matt, highlight, to know what is the democratic way forward for us democrats to recommend, if we are joining in the argument as I have done. I am acutely aware that the public generally regards it as undemocratic not to accept the result of the Referendum – that we must leave – and both Tim and Nick, and the Party at Conference, accepted that and concentrated on saying that another referendum would be on the terms put forward by the Government, not on the substantive issue. My own suggested answer, as Tim13 and others seem to agree, is that because Brexit would in my view be a disaster for the country, we should try to persuade enough leavers that they were wrong for the numbers for remaining to become a majority. Then, opposition to Brexit would no longer be undemocratic, because another referendum might reverse the result. Hence, delay in consideration would be valuable, and I have written to Nick Clegg to suggest he fronts a campaign to attempt public persuasion this winter, at the same time organising a study group on how we wish to see the EU develop with us in future. At present I think possibly Nick, reasonably enough, may be struggling a bit with how the public is seeing the issues, and I am glad I am not an MP who will have to vote on them – but ultimately, were I an MP, I could not vote for what I am sure will be bad for the country, and it seems that that is Nick’s position. Peace, colleagues, please, it’s all very difficult, but let’s continue working together. Sorry to write at such length here.

  • Parliament enacted the European Union Referendum Act 2015, whose formal title stated that its purpose was “To make provision for the holding of a referendum in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union”. That Act authorised the holding of the referendum, regulated who would be legally entitled to vote in it and other matters about the conduct of the campaign, and specified that the question would be: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

    The European Union Referendum Act 2015 .The Act itself does not say that it is advisory.
    If it were to be advisory only, then it would have said so in the act.

  • @ matt

    “The Act itself does not say that it is advisory.
    If it were to be advisory only, then it would have said so in the act.”

    Unfortunately this is not true. Roland is correct that the papers published along with the Referendum Act states it was advisory, but even if these papers had not been published it would have been advisory. If the act had stated which parts of the European Communities Act 1972 and other acts would be repealed at the end of the process set out in Article 50 as well as the procedure to be followed to trigger article 50 (an order in council would give the power to the executive, a statutory instrument would give the power to Parliament) then it would not have been advisory, but an act of parliament to end our membership of the EU and I would expect would have had a different title.

  • @Michael BG

    It does not make any difference legally what was published in papers alongside the act. What matters legally is what is written in the act itself.
    Which brings me back to, nowhere did it state that this referendum was advisory only.

    MP’s are used to scrutinising acts with a fine tooth comb, had they believed that the referendum should only be advisory they would have insisted on amendments to the act.

    Then there is the published leaflets sent to every household in the uk. The government spent £9.5million of taxpayers’ money on printing a leaflet and distributing it to all households in the United Kingdom. That leaflet attracted widespread (and deserved) criticism for its gross bias in favour of remaining in the EU. However, on the consequences of the referendum it could not have been clearer. On the page headed “A once in a generation decision” it stated that:
    “The referendum on Thursday 23rd June is your chance to decide if we should remain in the European Union.”
    It did not say “it is your chance to advise on whether we should remain, the actual decision being taken by Parliament.”
    But it went on to be even clearer and more emphatic:
    “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.”

  • @ matt
    “The Government will implement what you decide.”

    In manifestos political parties promise to implement particular policies that they have set out if elected to form the next government. It is in this context that the Conservative promise should be read. They were promising that if there was a “leave” vote in the referendum it would then take the necessary steps to take us out of the EU. In their manifesto they stated they would scrap the Human Rights Act. This did not mean that they would try to use executive power to repeal the act, but that they would pass a new act that repealed it. Those MPs who oppose this would fight this new act and vote against it, which is part of the normal workings of our democracy. Therefore the government’s promise to take us out of the EU should be interpreted to mean according to our constitution. Perhaps the writers of the leaflet did not think they needed to explain how our constitution works.

    Perhaps if you read the full High Court judgment you would understand why they made their decision to up hold our constitution against the power of the executive who were trying to ignore it. You can find the full ruling at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/r-miller-v-secretary-of-state-for-exiting-the-european-union/.

  • @Michael BG

    I am not saying that parliament is not needed to enact article 50.

    What I am saying is that the referendum was not (advisory only) according to the act and that parliament should honour the results of the referendum, after all that is what they debated, agreed and ultimately signed up for.
    They allowed the electorate to decide whether we should leave or remain in the EU.

    Normally we live in a representative Democracy, that much is true. However, in the circumstances of a referendum that control and decision is handed back to the people for the purposes of the referendum.
    For MP’s who live in constituencies who voted remain, it would be perfectly legitimate for them to vote against article 50, as they would be representing the will of their majority constituents.

    Although I think the high court is quite right in their judgement in which they say that article 50 has to be passed by parliament. I do however think it is wrong for political parties to use this as an opportunity to scupper article 50 entirely or weaken the governments negotiating hand. That is not in the best interests of the country or democracy.

  • @ matt

    I don’t think we are as far apart as I first thought. You are raising two points, but I had only been replying to one of them.

    The question of how MPs respond to a referendum cannot be dictated by the government. The result of a referendum should be followed by the government or there was no point in holding it. It would seem to me to be a very silly government that held a referendum and then didn’t try to implement the result. However the position of the opposition and any Conservative MPs who voted against holding the referendum are that they not bound by the result. However I do agree with you that if a non-government MP voted for the referendum then they are duty bound to try to implement the result.

    However the legal position is that the referendum was only advisory, because it could only have been binding if the act had stated what would happen if the people voted “leave”.

    The High Court decision means that there has to be an Act of Parliament which sets out which parts of the European Communities Act 1972 and other acts that will be repealed at the end of the process set out in Article 50. This act will also have to state how article 50 is triggered. The High Court decision does not mean that this bill (future act) has to set out what the government is trying to achieve. However it might be a prolonged process to get the wording right on what is repealed if different alternatives have to be covered in the wording depending on what can be agreed with the EU. Therefore as the Referendum Act was not the end of the Parliamentary process it can be labelled “advisory”, but I agree with you it would be a foolish government which ignored the result.

  • David Allen 6th Nov '16 - 1:12am

    There are two key truths here, and they conflict. They are:

    The British people voted and the vote deserves respect.

    Brexit, if it happens, wlll be our greatest national disaster since Hitler’s Blitz.

    I agree with Katharine Pindar:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/article-50-ruling-follows-a-monumental-misjudgment-by-theresa-may-52358.html#comment-420640

    and would like to take the argument further.

    At the moment, there is no evidence that the British people as a whole have decisively changed their minds since last June. Polls suggest that 52/48 might have moved toward 50/50, but that is not nearly a big enough swing to allow anyone to disregard the result. If a parliamentary vote were held tomorrow, therefore, our MPs should not vote to reject Brexit.

    However, if the calamity of Brexit became clear to all, if (for example) we saw massive increases in inflation and unemployment, and Yougov were to record an 80/20 view against proceeding with Brexit – Our MPs would and should then feel completely justified in rejecting Brexit.

    What, in fact, should be the polling threshold on this? I would suggest that if a Yougov poll were to hit 60/40 against Brexit, that would be the point at which we should feel free to reject the referendum result as outdated.

    It would be a good thing to declare a specific figure such as 60/40. It would reassure voters that we will not ride roughshod over their referendum vote – unless and until they themselves have second thoughts. That may well happen, and if so, it is then when we must capitalise.

  • Perhaps I have not been clear enough. The Referendum Act was not legally binding because it didn’t set out what happened if the people voted “leave” but I think it was morally binding on those who voted for it.

  • Robin Grayson 6th Nov '16 - 8:07am

    Greetings from Manchester.
    A reminder to everyone that a thumping majority of Mancunians voted REMAIN.
    The total number of votes cast in favour of REMAIN was 121,823
    The total number of votes cast in favour of LEAVE was 79,991
    It follows that the MPs for Manchester – all Labour – should respect the clear wishes of their constituents and vote REMAIN in Parliament. The Manchester MPs won a huge mandate to do so, and indeed have an obligation to do so. Of course to take full note of the 79,991 voters who voted to LEAVE. But for Manchester MPs to vote in Parliament in favour of leaving would be against the clearly stated wishes of Mancunians. MPs are the representatives of the wishes of their constituents and that is how a Parliamentary democracy works. With respect, all the posts on this issue are great reading in going hither and thither to justify this or that, but most fail to grasp the nettle that it is not a case of “England expects..” but is an open and shut case that “Mancunians expect…”

  • @Michael BG

    “The Referendum Act was not legally binding because it didn’t set out what happened if the people voted “leave” ”
    I do not believe that is right at all.
    The act did not need to set out what needs to happen in the event of a vote leave.
    It stands to reason that the Lisbon Treaty, leaving the EU, article 50, is the only process of leaving the EU.
    The only thing in contention was whether the Prime Minister had the authority to invoke article 50 without consulting parliament, or whether parliament would have to vote. Because this was not written into the act, does not make it non legally binding and only advisory. Talk about clutching at straws
    The 2015 European referendum act was not advisory, had it been so, it would have been written into the act.

  • David Allen 6th Nov '16 - 5:28pm

    “The 2015 European referendum act was not advisory, had it been so, it would have been written into the act.”

    Er, surely a more logical comment would be:

    The 2015 European referendum act was not mandatory, had it been so, it would have been written into the act!

  • @David Allen

    “The 2015 European referendum act was not mandatory, had it been so, it would have been written into the act!”

    Why is that more logical?

    Since neither was written into the act, we have to instead rely on information that the Government supplied when opening the debates
    In opening the second reading debate (Hansard) on the Referendum Bill on 9 June 2015, the Foreign Secretary said:-
    “This is a simple, but vital, piece of legislation. It has one clear purpose: to deliver on our promise to give the British people the final say on our EU membership in an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.”
    and he concluded with
    “But whether we favour Britain being in or out, we surely should all be able to agree on the simple principle that the decision about our membership should be taken by the British people, not by Whitehall bureaucrats, certainly not by Brussels Eurocrats; not even by Government Ministers or parliamentarians in this Chamber”

    The leaflets sent to every household said
    ““The referendum on Thursday 23rd June is your chance to decide if we should remain in the European Union.””
    ““This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.””

  • matt 6th Nov ’16 – 6:00pm………………..The leaflets sent to every household said
    ““The referendum on Thursday 23rd June is your chance to decide if we should remain in the European Union.””““This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.””……………………………….

    The trouble with asking for a ‘yes/no’ answer to a complex question is that it causes more problems than it answers….
    Johnson, Gove, Farage, etc. had no idea what to do next and now an arch ‘Remainer’ (Theresa May) has been left holding the baby…
    Those expecting a smooth transition will be disappointed. Sadly, things can only get worse

  • A lot of people seem to be labouring under misconceptions here:

    Misconception No 1 – Parliament is bound by the result of the June Referendum.

    Parliament is sovereign, and cannot bind itself. Parliament is empowered to repeal is own statutes and disregard the outcomes of referenda it sanctions, be they stated to be advisory, mandatory or whatever. That has been the case since the 17th century. It is not a rule of law, it is an ultimate political fact, and can be undone only by a revolution.

    Misconception No 2 – The Supreme Court might overturn the decision of the High Court.

    Yes, it might. Stranger things have happened. But it is difficult to see how that judgement is anything other than legally correct. Yes, the Prime Minister has the power to abrogate international treaties, but not if by so doing she renders rights bestowed by statute nugatory.

    Misconception No 3 – If we surrender, the victors will treat us kindly.

    No, they will not. They will simply do what they always intended to do, which is to take away our employment, environmental and consumer rights and turn this country into a cheap labour tax haven economy.

  • @expats
    “The trouble with asking for a ‘yes/no’ answer to a complex question is that it causes more problems than it answer”

    I don’t think it was a complex question at all. It was quite simple
    Remain or Leave the EU.
    The people voted for leave.

    You could not have a referendum ballot paper with multiple choice answers based on outcomes that were impossibly unknown and unable to deliver, as Brexit needs to have take place in the first instance to see what ends up being able to be negotiated.
    That’s just common sense.

    Parliament chose to put this decision out to plebiscite. The people answered. They chose to leave the EU.
    We should now get on with implementing the will of the majority and leave the EU.
    That means we need to either leave entirely, or strike a new unique trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

  • @ matt – “The Act itself does not say that it is advisory.
    If it were to be advisory only, then it would have said so in the act.”

    “The 2015 European referendum act was not mandatory, had it been so, it would have been written into the act!”

    re: Why is that more logical?

    Because of the government statements about the bill you highlight as supposedly supporting your erroneous viewpoint! If the government really wanted Parliament to treat the result of the referendum as being binding on Parliament then they would have included wording to that effect in the bill! So the question, given the quotes you cite, has to be: why didn’t they? particularly as they knew and would have been advised that the only way to legally bind Parliament is to make things explicit in the bill that Parliament votes on.

    Even the 1984 Telecommunications Act, in section 94, makes explicit the far-reaching powers being granted to the Secretary of State and which successive Secretary’s of State/governments used to enable the security services to create massive communications surveillance operations without further Parliamentary involvement or scrutiny.

    So the total absence of any statements in the bill/Act about what happens after the referendum, is actually a clear statement as to the full extent of the Act, namely to hold a referendum. The statements made by the government are actually one’s of intent – by the government, and a pretty please request for Parliament to be nice to the government.

  • matt 6th Nov ’16 – 6:29pm……@expats..“The trouble with asking for a ‘yes/no’ answer to a complex question is that it causes more problems than it answer”….I don’t think it was a complex question at all. It was quite simple
    Remain or Leave the EU.
    The people voted for leave……………

    There-in lies the problem. Imagine a hypothetical ‘simple’ question, “Would you like to live to be 100?”…
    A ‘Yes’ ignores all the ramifications of perhaps the last 20 years being bed-ridden, extreme incontinence, with Alzheimer’s, etc., etc.,….A ‘No’ reply may well avoid the problems of extreme old age but also excludes the possibility of reading the Queen’s telegram before a party with one’s great, great grandchildren…

    My father always told me to ‘read the small print’ ….In the case of the referendum, very few did!

  • @expats

    Maybe it would be easier if you explained exactly what you thought the referendum ballot paper should have said and the options

  • matt 7th Nov ’16 – 11:13am…@expats………Maybe it would be easier if you explained exactly what you thought the referendum ballot paper should have said and the options…

    You have already started that with your 6th Nov ’16 – 6:[email protected]……..We should now get on with implementing the will of the majority and leave the EU……….[B]That means we need to either leave entirely, or strike a new unique trade agreement between the UK and the EU…..[/B]

    What is it?

  • @expats.

    I am happy to answer your question. But first I am just curious as to why you did not answer mine?

  • matt 7th Nov ’16 – 11:42am…[email protected]….I am happy to answer your question. But first I am just curious as to why you did not answer mine?….

    I thought I had…Your “need to either leave entirely, or strike a new unique trade agreement between the UK and the EU”…forms the basis of conditions for leaving the EU…

    Leaving the EU entirely means that there needs to be no trade off between free movement of people, access to the single market/customs union, EU Law, etc. and Article 50 could have been triggered on the 24th June….
    The second option requires the voter to decide on his priorities between those options …e.g. 1) Immigration 2) Single Market Access, etc…

  • @expats
    “The second option requires the voter to decide on his priorities between those options …e.g. 1) Immigration 2) Single Market Access, etc…”

    And that would have not been possible to put on a ballot because of the amount of variables in the question.

    My preferred option is out of the EU, to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement for goods and services.
    If that was not possible then WTO rules.
    The world does not start in Ireland and finish in Greece, there is a whole wide world out there to trade with. The EU has been hopeless in making trade agreements.
    It is my belief the UK would prosper outside of the EU

  • The EU is in panic following the Brexit referendum and the election of Trump. According to Der Spiegel, EU leaders have no answer to the rise of populism except to recite the mantra of more Europe even though back in their home countries dislike of the EU is widespread and growing.

    It could all be over in a few months. If Marine le Pen wins the French Presidency that will be the end of the EU, according to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.

    It is rather amusing that Mr Farron is desperate to keep us in an organisation that is beginning to disintegrate before our eyes.

  • John Peters 13th Nov '16 - 7:01pm

    It must be bad if it’s been reported by Spiegel. Usually they give a fawning view of the EU (yes, they have started to become more balanced since Brexit).

  • William Tobin 18th Nov '16 - 9:45pm

    David Evershed says ” the result of the referendum should be respected”. But there were 5½ million people who arguably ought to have been consulted who weren’t because Parliament in its wisdom considered them too young, too long abroad (like me) or too foreign to be consulted. I find it very difficult to accept that my life has been upset by a purportedly-democratic decision from which I and 5½ million other affected people were excluded. If you feel like me that all future voting ought to be more fairly representative, please consider signing my petiton to Parliament to enfranchise the excluded 5½ million in all future voting:
    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/166615

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