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Parliamentary Primacy

2016 November 7
by Ian Welsh

UK judges have ruled that Parliament must vote to leave the EU.

There has been much anger in the pro-Leave press in the UK.

This is not hard:

  1. The judges are right. Parliament is supreme and must vote.
  2. Parliament should not ignore a democratic referendum result.

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10 Responses
  1. steeleweed permalink
    November 7, 2016

    Just because they should not ignore the referendum does not guarantee they will not ignore it. One upside of BREXIT is that Scotland might revisit the independence issue.

  2. November 7, 2016

    I agree with you that the idea of overturning the result this way is deeply dangerous.

    However, the obvious intent in returning the issue to Parliament is, as you know, to create more opportunities to prevent what it’s opponents clearly see as a sort of Archduke Ferdinand Moment.

  3. Peter* permalink
    November 7, 2016

    Ever since this unfortunate display of direct democracy was allowed to occur the game plan has been delay, frighten, delay some more, frighten some more and now disenfranchise with a bit of help from these three Enemies of the People. The MP’s mandate is supposed to be to institute the will of the people, even in the UK I think, so they should implement the Exit decision not approve or disapprove it.

    That’s not going to happen and the PTB there is just too chickenshit to tell the millions of voters to suck an egg and leave governing to their betters.

  4. chris dobbie permalink
    November 7, 2016

    Not a good sign if they don’t sign off on it is it.

  5. Duncan permalink
    November 7, 2016

    Peter, they aren’t “Enemies of the People” FFS, they’re High Court Judges doing exactly what they’re supposed to do: interpret the law to the best of their abilities without reference to political pressure.

    MP’s are elected to serve their constituencies. Now, if an MP votes against the express wishes of their constituency, then I’d say the “Enemy of the People” label is a bit more accurate.

    And for the record, I voted leave.

  6. November 7, 2016

    The problem is there was no single referendum – there were a host of ideas. there is no single defined structure to “leave”. Also, there is a long tradition in Europe, especially Great Britain, to take multiple polls. it was not a compulsory vote, but an advisory one. The best that could be done is for Parliament to negotiate with the EU, and then put that as a compulsory referendum.

    If the supporters wanted a compulsory referendum, they should have said that up front.

  7. Some Guy permalink
    November 8, 2016

    You are correct Ian, but the anger in the press at the (correct) decision is what may force the MPs to make the (correct) decison to honour the results of the referendum.

  8. November 8, 2016

    True, but it does put the constitution back on the agenda. UKIP’s next big issue? See

  9. markfromireland permalink
    November 8, 2016

    @ Stirling Newberry November 7, 2016

    The problem is there was no single referendum

    Yes there WAS a single referendum. The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, commonly called the Brexit referendum was held on 23 June 2016 on foot of the European Union Referendum Act 2015 2015 c. 36. and posed the following question to the electorate:

    “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

    The alternative answers to that question that are to appear on the ballot papers were —

    “Remain a member of the European Union

    Leave the European Union”.

    Get your facts right. “No single referendum” my ass.

    there is no single defined structure to “leave”

    Yes there is it’s whatever structure the European Council of Ministers decides. I say it again, “get your facts right”.

    Also, there is a long tradition in Europe, especially Great Britain, to take multiple polls.

    Emphasis added by me, not that I really needed to as for anyone with even a miniscule knowledge of British political history that howlingly inaccurate totally false assertion leaps off the screen. It is wholly and completely wrong to assert as you have done that there is a long tradition of taking mulitiple polls in the UK. The holding of referenda is alien and inimical to the British political tradition and to British constitutional practise which asserts parliamentary supremacy. There have been three referenda the scope of which covered the entire British electorate in the years since the UK acceded to the European Community.

    1. 1975 European Communities membership referendum
    2. 2011 Alternative Vote referendum
    3. 2016 European Union membership referendum

    There have been 10 other referenda all of which had local or regional impact and the electorates for which were voters in the affected regions or in the case of the Greater London Authority referendum of 1998 Local Government wards.

    In not one one of either the national or regional referenda averted to above, not even one, has there ever been even the suggestion that the referendum result be overturned. Never, not even once. Get your facts right.

    The best that could be done is for Parliament to negotiate with the EU, and then put that as a compulsory referendum.

    If you had even the tiniest knowledge or respect for the British parliamentary system which holds that sovereignty belongs to “the Queen in Parliament” you would know that that is an utterly ludicrous suggestion and one that is inimical to their Parliamentary tradition and usage which is predicated upon the fusion of powers rather than their separation. As you manifestly don’t have even the tiniest knowledge of basis upon which the British parliamentary system is founded I suppose that asking you get your facts right is an exercise in futility.

    If the supporters wanted a compulsory referendum, they should have said that up front.

    The correct term is “binding” not compulsory and a binding referendum is inimical to the tradition of parliamentary supremacy. As it appears to have escaped your notice allow me to point out that restoring powers that had been transferred to Europe from the UK parliament was what the “leave” campaigners were campaigning for. Allow me to further point out that they were not campaigning for some milquetoast version of the Swiss system to be introduced to the UK.

  10. Peter* permalink
    November 8, 2016


    The decision handed down by these three wise men certainly appears to be politically and class motivated telling all the people who voted for and against the Exit that the elite should correct their mistakes for them.

    The ruling class have always been terrified by what they view as Mob Rule and we have a constitution written to guarantee divide and rule so even our presidential election is indirect and divided.

    I think the two other referenda that the whole UK voted on were both EU related but were votes on policies already decided by Parliament and sold to the public so there was little chance of a ‘wrong’ vote. This referendum is different and even with the legalese written into the document that authorized it it was a clear majority mandate that can’t be dismissed with hair splitting after the fact.

    The lesson that people who voted in this direct democracy exercise are learning is that the ruling class cannot tolerate a vote against their interests and their response has shown what they think about the Mob and their ‘mistakes’. Another lesson that could be learned is that the people don’t actually need a ruling class to direct their thinking and that they could directly make decisions on matters of national importance.

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