Monday, 16 July 2018

Brexit ~ MPs like rats in a sack ~ A further referendum?

Justine Greening MP - (Wikipedia) - has argued that a second referendum on EU membership is required in order to break the gridlock in Parliament - The Independent 16 July.  Greening, who held the Putney seat by 1554 votes in the 2017 election, branded Theresa May's Brexit plan the "worst of both worlds."

Let's see if Greening's idea is workable ....

Under the Article 50 Notification, the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 - only 257 days from now.

As things stand today, the White Paper - The future relationship between the UK and the EU is the ONLY proposal on the negotiating table.  I have considered the White Paper in previous posts - HERE.

It is over 2 years since the referendum and the UK has finally declared its thinking about a Withdrawal Agreement and Framework for Future Relationship.

No agreement with the EU has been reached and we need to remember the mantra - "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

Agreement may take some time to achieve and is not expected until October at the earliest.

Greening appears to be correct in her use of the word "gridlocked" as a description for the present state of affairs in the House of Commons.

The House of Commons goes into recess on Tuesday 24 July until 4 September.  It then goes into recess again for Party Conferences over the period 13 September to 9 October.

There is NO "off the peg" legislation sitting on the statute book waiting to be rolled out for a further referendum.  NEW legislation is required.

There will be a lot of argument about what the new legislation should address such as:
  • What will be the referendum question - would it be Leave / Remain vote as per the last referendum or would it be Accept / Reject the Withdrawal Agreement or would it take some other form
  • Who may vote - remember UK citizens living in the EU
  • Will it be a simple majority again or some form of enhanced majority - e.g. 60% or more decides
  • Will a majority be required in each of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and perhaps in the Crown Dependencies?
  • Referendum expenditure issues
The 2016 referendum was conducted under the European Union (Referendum) Act 2015.  The Bill took from 28 May 2015 until 17 December 2015 to be enacted. That's around 204 days (including the 2015 summer recess).

Of course it is not impossible that legislation could be enacted speedily BUT that could result in important omissions and would necessitate Parliament NOT going into recess.  One thing we do not need is a referendum held under flawed legislation.

Could Article 50 be extended to allow for a referendum?  Maybe.  Article 50 allows for an extension but the EU Council has to agree UNANIMOUSLY - There are indications that the EU would not agree to an extension unles some significant political change had taken place - The Guardian 22 July.

Art 50.3. - The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

A deeper question and one that has been debated from the outset but remains unanswered is whether the UK could withdraw its Article 50 notice.  This was discussed - ad nauseam - on this and other blogs.

The Greening referendum call seems to be impracticable BUT a decision HAS to be made.  The options just now appear to be -

A)  Remain - an embarrassment certainly and would entail revoking the Art 50 notice (if that is possible)

B)  Leave with some kind of deal - and remember, Theresa May's proposal is the ONLY one we have and it is bedevilled by trying to adhere to the red lines set out in the Lancaster House Speech requiring the UK to come out of the EU Single Market and Customs Union.

C)  Leave with No Deal - this is the worst of all options from the economic viewpoint

Parliament is the UK's sovereign body.  At the moment the UK is on course (B).  The House of Commons needs to decide whether it does or does not support this course and, if not, say what is to be done.  The present bickering is unacceptable.  MPs need to forget the recess, stay at work and sort this out.

Any road up .... that's what I think !

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