This week, thankfully, the Government avoided defeat over the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and managed to resist the House of Commons’ attempt to seize control of the Brexit process. They also managed to squash the amendments put in by unelected saboteurs in the House of Lords, who have consistently sought to frustrate the passage of this Bill – which is essential to our exit from the European Union.
The clamour for a so-called “meaningful vote” was the latest in a long line of attempts by our Remain-dominated Parliament to frustrate a course of action which was mandated by the Great British Public in the EU Referendum – 2 years ago! Throughout this campaign, many MPs on both sides of the House have sought to disguise their guerrilla warfare as a crusade for “Parliamentary sovereignty”, somehow portraying themselves as the ‘upholders of Britain’s Constitution’.
Putting aside the painful charade of EU-supporting politicians pretending to care one jot about where British sovereignty lies, their recent behaviour could very well have caused significant British Constitutional damage.
Not only would a “meaningful vote” have undermined the UK Government’s position in these vital EU negotiations. It would have also flown in the face of centuries of constitutional procedure.
Royal Prerogative dictates it is the UK Executive who have control over foreign affairs – including the negotiation of treaties. As Lady Hale, President of the UK Supreme Court said in 2017: “The conduct of foreign affairs, making treaties…is an aspect of the Royal Prerogative”.
Indeed, the UK Government’s current efforts to conclude the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU – regardless of the current state of negotiations – is not just the enacting of the Royal Prerogative, but it is also supported by 2 clear mandates given by the Great British Public. The first in the 2016 EU Referendum, and then reinforced in the 2017 General Election.
The suggestion being made on Wednesday was MPs, having voted down whatever Withdrawal Deal Theresa May is able to come up with, would have been able to issue “binding instructions” on how to proceed with negotiations. This would have been nothing short of a “constitutional absurdity” – as put by Tory Peer Baroness Evans. The mere fact such a notion garnered wholesale support from Peers of all parties, and was backed by 303 MPs, displays the misunderstanding many in the Houses of Parliament seem to have over their role in the Brexit process. Displaying serious delusions of grandeur, Remoaners in Parliament thought they could place their own beliefs ahead of the wishes of the country, and somehow dictate the Government’s negotiating position. Ultimately, following tense consultations between whips and MPs, Dominic Grieve, and many in his gang of Tory rebels, acquiesced. They did not see the need to vote against Theresa May– believing the concessions they have extracted from the Government are sufficient.
As long term and staunch Brexiteer, Sir Bill Cash asserted in Wednesday’s vital Commons debate: “We operate in this country…under a system of Parliamentary Government, not governed by Parliament”. A point many of his Europhilic colleagues have simply failed to grasp.
This is not the first time parliamentarians have overstepped the mark, exerted undue influence, and damaged the interests of our country by constraining the Government.
Whilst MPs are often raucous in their support for Britain’s EU membership (despite a majority of them representing Leave voting constituencies), the Government’s own stated policy is to support the ‘Leave’ result in the EU Referendum.
Attempts by some backbench nobodies and many decrepit Peers in the Lords, to reverse the Government’s position can be viewed as efforts to erode this country’s political foundation.
The decision to Get Britain Out of the EU has become stated Government policy in support of the majority result of the EU Referendum on 23rd June 2 years ago. This result was reinforced by the following General Election, where both the Conservative and Labour parties’ manifestos supported Brexit, and a clean separation from the EU. Parliament’s attempts to undermine this, and dictate the policy of the Executive, are nothing short of disgracefully unconstitutional.
Robert Bates is a Research Executive at the cross-party, grassroots campaign Get Britain Out