The government now proposes to enshrine the date of Brexit in law. This would be wrong and parliament will not approve itby Jolyon Maugham / November 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
On 13th July the government published the EU Withdrawal Bill. And it was immediately clear, to this writer at least, that, even in a Bill widely condemned for stripping power from parliament, there was one feature uglier than the rest: the date of any exit from the EU would not be decided by parliament—but by a minister of the crown.
Later that day, on the electronic pages of this very organ, I wrote:
“on the date of our departure from the EU, the government proposes that there be no parliamentary control at all.
“What happens if a minister of the crown has a bad day? What happens if the bloviating, beshagged puddingbowl who passes for foreign secretary of our once functioning nation, decides that he has had enough of Michel Barnier’s cruel takedowns? On the face of it, he can make a regulation repealing the European Communities Act 1972. ‘Take that, Barnier! Oh, everyone’s flights have been cancelled. Still, he’s not laughing now, is he?’
“This is not how it should be. The timing of a nation’s departure from the EU must be controlled by the only people with a democratic franchise: MPs. Parliament. This is how even a semi-functioning democracy would work.”
Over the course of the summer, as the hard Brexiters marched us up to the cliff-edge, peered over the edge, and even waved their arms in an experimental sort of flap, the notion that parliament should relinquish control began to appal MPs from both sides of the House. Because to allow a minister of the crown the choice about when to Brexit would be to deny to parliament control about how to Brexit or even whether to Brexit.
When finally, nine Tory rebels put their names to an amendment to help parliament take back control, the government’s number was up. So today, in an attempt to head off inevitable defeat, the government has just proposed that Brexit Day now be enshrined in the Bill: it will be 11pm on 29th March 2019.
But will this amendment do it? Will it head off a rebellion?
Reader, it will not.
It must be parliament that decides on Brexit. Huff and puff though they do, the Hard Brexiters cannot deny that parliament chose to enact a non-binding referendum and also…