Technicalities For Me, Not Thee

The Brexit Referendum was explicitly advisory and won with a relatively small (though solid…it wasn’t razor thin) majority. There were shennanigans and questionable aspects on who got to vote. There were lies and illegalities.

Yet, Brexiters treat the result as binding and immutable.

Now we have a pretty big Remain victory in Parliament: the right to table and vote on a motion about the kind of next steps that should happen should May’s deal be defeated (as it probably will be:

It means they will most likely look to pass an amendment preventing a no-deal Brexit, for which there appears to be a majority in the house, or to potentially pivot to taking the country into a Norway-style arrangement or to holding a new referendum.

Of course, Brexiters don’t want that:

Steve Baker, who organises Tory Eurosceptic efforts in the Commons, said: “Grieve’s amendment … allows for an amendable motion 21 days after a government defeat of their dreadful deal.

“Whatever the outcome of the amendment, it is not legally binding on the PM. Acts are law, motions are motions. The executive still decides how to proceed.”

Sure, that’s technically true. But it’s also technically true that the Brexit referendum was advisory:

  • It contained no provision for action on the results
  • Referenda, in general, are subordinate to Parliament because everything is subordinate to Parliament

These aren’t mere technicalities. Parliamentary sovereignty is perhaps the core principle of the UK (uncodified) constitution. The Government has continually been making rather disturbing power grabs as part of the Brexit process.

Anyway, it’s rather rich to see Brexiters harping on technicalities.

I’m certainly not immune to the human tendency to see technical issues in my favour as deep principles while technical issues against me as mere technicalities. But given the lies, irregularities, illegalities, and general incompetence of Team Brexwhat? I don’t think I’m being too unfair here.

Let’s suppose the Brexit vote had been 60-40 leave that is something more like the sort of supermajority you generally want for major constitutional changes. And let’s say that the referendum had statutory language requiring the government to enact the results.

It’s STILL the case that the art 50 trigger was mad and that forcing through a Brexit no matter what isn’t a good way to go.

At the very least, the Government should have spent a couple of years preparing…thinking their own positions through and building consensus on the kind of Brexit had any sort of reasonable support. They couldn’t negotiate before triggering Art 50 but we spent most of that time fighting with ourselves to or making obviously futile demands.

We needed some sort of vote on various positions before going in then another one given the outcome of the negotiations.

This is fucking basic. You don’t rush into things that threaten your basic supply of food and medicine and over 3 million of your citizens. Not at least if you aren’t a knave and a fool.