Today sees the news that the High Court has ruled that the Prime Minister cannot declare the triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union ex cathedra and must seek the approval of Parliament before doing so.
This news triggered a spike in the value of the beleaguered pound…for all of six minutes before it fell back to a baseline rise in preparation of the Bank of England’s inflation and interest rate report 90 minutes later.
Of course, the UK Government will protest this ruling and likely appeal it to the Supreme Court which may overturn the ruling but assuming it does not, what can Parliament do to Article 50?
Already there are murmurs of the possibility to the House of Commons voting against the possibility of triggering Article 50 at all and effectively canceling Brexit altogether. Whilst this could be legal – the EU Referendum was entirely a consultation and conferred no obligation on the government one way or the other – I can’t possibly fathom a situation of this happening without there being actual riots in the pro-Leave streets of England and Wales.
Whilst Scottish and Northern Irish MPs may well have a mandate to back such a move on the grounds that those nations voted to Remain there is perhaps a wiser mode of opposition, one which could be adopted by pro-Remain or at least pro-NotADugsBrexit MPs.
Instead of opposition to Article 50 entirely, there should be a principle of opposition to an Article 50 trigger which takes us into negotiations without the foggiest clue of what we want to negotiate.
Imagine we tried to pull that trick in indyref1
Four months on from the referendum it’s clear that “No Running Commentary” has been code for “We Have No Plans”. That’s completely unacceptable now. It is time to see the Brexit White Paper. Both Government and Opposition should bring to Parliament a list of their goals, objections and red lines and fashion them into an initial statement of will to take to the EU negotiating table. Sure, there will be compromise and change after that and yes, there may be “no running commentary” throughout the process but the people of the UK must be able to judge what we come out with against what we went in with so that we may decide if the negotiations are successful enough to accept the deal offered.
There may well be a Parliamentary vote – or perhaps even another referendum – on that said deal in due course although it should be noted that once Article 50 is triggered there’s no very clear way back in – although the door is being held open by the EU. Any such vote will not be based on the “deal” versus “Stay in the EU, no harm, no foul”. It’ll be between the ‘deal’ and ‘the hardest of all Brexits’.
So that’s my challenge to the various UK parties – both Leave and Remain. What does Brexit mean to you?
We’ve already published a paper reopening the currency debate, debt and assets, a proposal for a National Investment Bank and others We want to produce further papers on pensions, defence, customs and excise, a detailed paper on the role of the Central Bank of Scotland, and others. All working up to a paper not just showing the limitations of accounting exercises like GERS but doing away with it entirely and building a case for an independent Scottish budget built from the ground up to suit our needs, rather than just being a tweaked version of what the UK does.
We are incredibly under resourced for this work but we think it’s work worth doing.