Still think Parliament hasn’t been involved in Brexit?

In the wake of the High Court ruling (BBC, 3rd November) that the government does not have the power to trigger Article 50 – to start formal exit negotiations with the EU – without the approval of Parliament, here are the ways Parliament has already been involved in the processes of a Brexit fitting the wishes of the people. 

Here is some political context for the legal challenge:

  1. Parliament gave their sovereign mandate on whether to leave the EU to the people by approving the 2015 Referendum Act – in effect judges are ignoring the democratic will of millions of people who voted because MPs gave them the final say on whether we leave the EU.
  2. When judges focused on the 1972 law (that binds us to the EU), their conclusions imply it trumps the 2015 parliamentary act where MPs gave the people the deciding voice, regardless of legal issues binding us to the EU. 

Theresa May is not restricting peoples rights by using the Royal Prerogative (as implied by our  High Court Judges focused on the 13th century agreement where merchants demanded the monarch did not restrict their rights using the Royal Prerogative). She is simply using this executive power to honour the people’s vote – a rare use indeed of the RP, but nevertheless that’s what she’s doing: The People’s Prerogative!

For all her faults, it is also unfair to say that Theresa May has ignored Parliament since coming to office because:

  • It is widely acknowledged that MPs are to be given a vote to undo the 1972 Act that binds us to the EU. 
  • There have already been debates in parliament over what kinds of negotiations/policies the government should be pushing for with the EU

She could do better of course in raising debates (her team keep saying they’re not going to give a “running commentary” on negotiations) but that’s all part of politics and how it works in parliament – contestation over policies, leadership, debates, laws, motions, votes etc….