Brexit, due process and the role of Parliament

Liberal Democrats should be leading the fight in both Houses of Parliament by demanding that a proper legislative process is followed which assesses the benefits, costs and risks of Brexit but also ensures that Brexit, if there has to be one, can only occur if, concurrently, the pitfalls in the constitutional framework exposed during the last 18 months are satisfactorily addressed.

A specific set of overarching rules would need to be put in place ideally before any Brexit can reasonably be implemented.

We should explain to the general public that Brexit is not only bad for the economy, our jobs and our rights but that it would be inappropriate to impose Brexit unless it is done alongside constitutional reform.

We are confident that voters will understand and support us if we tell them that our mission is to oppose Brexit and to ensure that Brexit, if there has to be one, is dependent upon due process and on a new constitutional framework.

The lesson learnt from Brexit: which constitutional reform

The Brexit process has exposed the pitfalls and deficiencies in the role of Parliament and the current constitutional framework.

A number of actions could be taken aimed at (i) enacting adequate rules to allow Parliament to scrutinise any legislation delegated to the Government and the Government’s actions, (ii) introducing a set of constitutional arrangements with devolved nations and providing for certain types of acts to be adopted by super-majority if they have a negative impact on the public budget or impair fundamental rights, (iii) improving election and referendum rules also by addressing the risks of foreign interference and of manipulation by media, (iv) allowing Parliament to impeach ministers and to properly discuss major issues without the potential restraint imposed by programme and guillotine motions, and (v) introducing proportional representation.

The issue of the scrutiny of delegated legislation is already a live topic.

The Procedure Committee of the House of Commons has recently launched an inquiry into the provisions being made for Parliamentary scrutiny of delegated legislation in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and into the adequacy of procedures in the House of Commons for appropriate scrutiny of such delegated legislation. Relevant references can be found here.

We should watch carefully the work of the Procedure Committee and attract the attention of the general public to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill debate to show that, as Lib Dems, we care about the future of our parliamentary democracy.

* Riccardo Sallustio and James Thellusson are members of the Liberal Democrats from Hounslow.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Laurence Cox 21st Sep '17 - 11:19am

    I certainly want to see a separate Parliamentary decision on Article 127 of the EEA treaty. The Government should not be allowed to take the UK out of the EEA without Parliament’s approval.

  • @Laurence – I agree particularly given that leaving the EEA will also change domestic legislation. However, I suspect the ‘hard’ Brexit fanatics will argue that the EU and EEA are one and the same and that treating them separately would only add complexity etc. etc. ie. we want a free hand to create as much mayhem as we can whilst the going is good…

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Sep '17 - 10:03pm

    ‘improving election and referendum rules also by addressing the risks of foreign interference and of manipulation by media’

    Sorry – what? How on earth do you plan to do that?

  • Riccardo Sallustio 22nd Sep '17 - 5:56pm

    @Little Jackie Paper
    The UN has been promoting an international Convention on Cybersecurity which is expected to cover also interference in elections in other countries. Ideally, the Convention will provide for an international body to impose sanctions on countries infringing the rules. The UK should be fully supporting this. Cybersecurity is also at the heart of the EU digital agenda. The UK cannot obviously fight the issue alone and being part of the EU would be extremely beneficial in this respect.

    From an internal standpoint, the Government should be funding the cost of fighting cyber-interference in elections in order to protect databases, email accounts and websites, apps of political parties, candidates and media during the election campaign to avoid hacking, phishing, DDoS attacks, unauthorised access, etc.

    On media manipulation, the Electoral Commission should become a real-time regulator overseeing political campaign material in the UK. I agree with Simon Kuper who on the FT suggested that “a very slow, understaffed, 20th-century election regulator must, therefore, retool itself into a kind of courtroom judge who can call out falsehoods instantly”. If we have had one in place during the June 2016 referendum the Boris’ lie on the red bus would have been immediately spotted and neutralized.

  • Spencer Hagard 22nd Sep '17 - 9:43pm

    @Riccardo Sallustio
    But, by Mrs May’s Florentine lights the UK couldn’t possibly participate in a UN led international body with the power to impose sanctions, because our ‘unique history and geography’ make the UK properly allergic to pooling sovereignty, compared (by implication) with lesser breeds without the Law.
    Which means we really should be getting out of the UN itself, of course, and then there’s also the little matter of NATO membership, which remarkably always seems to get overlooked, when illustrations of the iniquities of pooling sovereignty, poor democratic oversight, etc, are being bandied about.

  • Peter Hirst 24th Sep '17 - 1:49pm

    The thing about Brexit is that we have to get it right eventually or it will simmer for generations. By all means let’s continue debating it and by doing so hopefully we will reach a consensus, say 60% approving. Personally, I think this means another referendum. Let’s thing long-term so by 2025 we as a country do once again become (more or less) united.

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