Whitehall telling Parliament what it can or can’t do is not “Taking Back Control”

On 9th September we published an article “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.” This is a quote from an address given by David Davis in 2012.

Just before we wrote the article, David Davis’s Dept for Exiting the EU was quoted as saying “There can be no attempts to remain inside the EU and no attempt to rejoin it”. This constitutes a blatant attempt to stifle Parliament’s authority and also our democracy, not to mention being apparently contrary to David Davis’s beliefs.

This morning Theresa May is quoted in the Daily Telegraph (paywall) as saying:

“We will not tolerate attempts from any quarter to use the process of amendments to this bill as a mechanism to try to block the democratic wishes of the British people by attempting to slow down or stop our departure from the European Union”.

Apart from the foolishness of pre-judging where the best interests of the UK will be some 16 months in the future in our rapidly-changing world, we have the chief executive of the UK’s government insisting that she is entitled to tell the members of our Sovereign Parliament what they can and cannot do.

What sort of “Taking Back Control” is this – certainly not the sort that puts that control in the hands of Parliament, the UK’s sovereign authority, whose members have a sworn duty to do what is best for the nation and its people.

Why does Theresa May, who expresses such devotion to “the democratic wishes of the British people”, repeatedly attempt to ignore or overrule the UK democratic process? Is democracy important to her or isn’t it?

As we know, the right to confirm, or otherwise, the decision on what is best for the UK is in the hands of the UK’s Parliament: The Three Knights Opinion gives an authoritative legal confirmation of that. Lord Kerr, a co-author of Article 50, has confirmed it again in The Guardian today, and in a case in the EU Court of Justice, the EU Council has said that an action for the loss of rights can only be taken on signature of an irreversible final withdrawal agreement.

There is a political will within the EU for the UK to withdraw the Article 50 notice of intention and for the UK to return to the status quo ante.

But, and this is vastly more important, Parliament must have control of the situation and decide what is in the best interest of the UK, at the point where Parliament and the public know what the exit negotiations have produced.

As we said in our article yesterday “It’s not just the 3 Knights clause that is important”, the issues involved go far beyond the immediate question of whether the UK remains in the EU or not, they strike at the very roots of our system of representative democracy and parliamentary sovereignty.


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Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

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