There is no doubt that the British public was lied to during the Referendum campaign. It wasn’t just the threat of millions of Turkish immigrants or the £350 million a week that would be saved. The great lie started with David Cameron and has now been repeated by Theresa May and her band of over-excited Brexiteers. The great lie was that the result of the vote would be the definitive decision about whether we stayed or left the EU.
What was obvious to anyone who bothered to look, was that the referendum result was not intended to mandate government to declare Art50 without further recourse to Parliament. In the forums of this paper and the Times I, and many others, before the Referendum and since have made this point and been loudly rubbished. But three of the most senior judges in the land agreed. The decision to leave the EU is down to Parliament not the Executive.
Before they voted, MP’s were briefed about the status of the Referendum 2015 bill as follows:
'It does not contain any requirement for the UK Government to implement the results of the referendum, nor set a time limit by which a vote to leave the EU should be implemented. Instead, this is a type of referendum known as pre-legislative or consultative, which enables the electorate to voice an opinion which then influences the Government in its policy decisions. The referendums held in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1997 and 1998 are examples of this type, where opinion was tested before legislation was introduced.'
Given its status, even those MP’s who had a real concern about the wisdom of a vote such as this, were prepared to give their consent. But Cameron, for his own political purposes, maintained that the result would be definitive as far as the Government was concerned he, of course, was presuming a vote to Remain. After losing the vote the ‘Brexiteers’ had their hands around his delicate parts and it is said that when you grab a man by his delicate parts, his heart will surely follow. To hold his party together Cameron had to make the claim it was a done deal and Parliament had no further role in the decision to leave. He and his successor were wrong, the basis of the original vote was clear and the courts have reaffirmed that the execution of Article 50 is the province of Parliament and not the Executive.
There is only one reason, in my view, why the Supreme Court will not uphold the decision of the High Court. The judges may well address the question whether Article 50 is irrevocable and seek a ruling from the European Court. This is the big-money question. If it is irrevocable then it must be Parliament’s decision. through a legislative act, when and whether to commence the process of leaving the EU. If it is revocable, and the evidence taken by the House of Lords and indeed, the comments made by Lord Kerr suggests that it is, then Parliament can wait until it knows how the EU will respond to the proposals put to it by the UK Government. Those proposals will need to be argued out in Parliament but, if Article 50 is revocable, then the Government’s negotiating position is immeasurably stronger. The only ones who do not want this issue tested are the hard-line Brexiteers – they do not want any deal with the EU. They want out, completely and irrevocably.
If Article 50 is revocable then a decision point will come: do we stay in the EU on negotiated terms or do we leave on negotiated terms? That would be the point at which a clear and definitive question could be put to the British people in a second referendum. We would then know what the stakes are and this time Parliament, could decide to make the Referendum result binding. If those who voted for Brexit are convinced of the strength of their case, then what is there to be afraid of?