It’s the start of Boris Johnson’s Titanic success, May’s Brexit plans have collided with the iceberg of the courts. The High Court has decided that Britain isn’t a dictatorship after all. The Court has ruled that Theresa May doesn’t get to decide that Brexit means Brexit means whatever she wants it to mean all by herself. Parliament must get a say and must be consulted. It wasn’t merely that the Court found against the Tory government, they dismissed the Government’s case in the strongest possible terms, citing the legal doctrine extrahitis urinam, which is Latin for “you lot are taking the piss.”
Having spent the last few years demanding that Britain must leave Europe because it compromises the sovereignty of the Great British Half-Baked Parliament, the Daily Mail is now furious that a judge who’s an openly gay former Olympic fencer has ruled that the British Parliament must really be sovereign after all. For the Mail, the most salient aspect of the judge’s decision isn’t the fact that he’s a judge. It’s not the fact that he’s spent years practising law. It’s not the fact that he sits in the High Court. It’s the fact that he’s openly gay. Perhaps the Mail wouldn’t have a problem if he was a sad and lonely closet case, hiding away without any friends and trying to pretend he was something he wasn’t. Which is pretty much what Britain will be like after leaving the EU. Friendless, isolated, and trying to pretend it’s really a great and influential power alongside the USA.
If you want to know why homophobic attacks have soared along with racist assaults since Brexit, you need look no further than the rancid pages of the Mail and the other right wing rags which preach a venemous and hate filled variety of intolerant British nationalism.
Some more reasonable voices have expressed concern that the decision of the people in a referendum might be overturned by a court decision and members of Parliament. There is a serious debate to be had about where sovereignty lies in the UK and how it should be manifest. But this current situation has arisen because the EU referendum was not legally binding. And if it’s not legally binding can the office of the Prime Minister undo statutary law and the legal rights and obligations of citizens which flow from those laws without debating the matter in parliament. The High Court has said no.
If the government had wanted to make the EU referendum legally binding there was nothing to stop it doing so when the referendum bill was going through the Commons. All through the EU referendum the Brexiteers cried that they wanted British sovereignty, they wanted the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament, and now the High Court has delivered that to them they’re greeting that that’s not the way they wanted it. Naturally the most unappealing government in recent history is going to appeal.
The only thing guaranteed to send a right wing Brexiteer into a fit of apoplexy more than a gay fencer judge who’s ruled against Theresa May’s right to be an absolute monarch is when the Scottish Government intervenes. And that’s exactly what’s happening now, as the Scottish Government has signalled that it’s planning to participate in the appeal in order to ensure that Scottish MPs get a say on Brexit in the Commons. Let’s just ensure that the Scotland is represented by a gay, or even better, a Muslim lawyer during the proceedings, all the better to wind up the Daily Mail. Aamer Anwar, your country needs you.
David Davies, the Tory Secretary of State for Frothing About Europe, is very angry about all this, although it’s difficult to tell when he’s very angry about something in particular since being frothing mouthed is his baseline status. Davie is furious because he thought that Brexit means Brexit means Laws Do Not Apply. Brexit means Brexit means Davie and his pals were supposed to be allowed to define what Brexit means Brexit means all by themselves. Now he’s very upset because the courts have just told him that what Brexit means Brexit means needs to be debated, discussed, and voted upon by members of parliament. That’s the same parliament that Davie was determined to secure sovereignty for last week, just in case anyone has forgotten. Because Davie certainly has.
The UK Government is taking an appeal to the Supreme Court. The case will probably be heard next month. However given the strength of the ruling against the government today, there can be no guarantee that Theresa May will get her way. She’s still insisting that she’s going to push the big red Brexit button in March next year, but a defeat in the Supreme Court could seriously derail her timetable. It means that Parliament might have to get a debate and a vote, and Theresa May will have to reveal to the country the broad details of her plan. That’s the plan that she says she’s keep secret so as not to give away her negotiating tactics, but which everyone else strongly suspects doesn’t actually exist. The Brexit plan is as mythical as Gordie Broon’s reputation as a respected statesman.
The real reason that Theresa May and her merry band of Europhobes don’t want a vote in Parliament on Brexit is because that would expose the intellectual bankruptcy of her government. There is no plan. All there is is the fond wish that somehow the EU27 will roll over and allow the UK to pick and choose those parts of the EU that it wants to retain after leaving the organisation. The truth is that Brexit means Brexit means what the EU wants it to mean, not Theresa May. And they’re not in the mood to do Britain any favours.
Brexit will still go ahead, but today’s ruling means that Theresa May and the right wing of the Tory party are not going to get everything entirely their own way. There’s now a better chance than there was yesterday that we could have the so-called soft Brexit with the UK leaving the EU but retaining access to the single market and the common customs area, keeping freedom of movement and preserving many of the rights we have as European citizens. That’s a good thing.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-3rd-nov-2016
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