So there we have it. We live in a Parliamentary democracy.
Ironically this is exactly what Brexit campaigners said they wanted: Parliament to be the final arbiter of what happens in our country, not Brussels. Having been put in charge of the process it was rather odd for Boris Johnson and his motley crew to immediately assert that they didn’t need to actually write down what they wanted to do but would rely on the Crown Prerogative as the basis of getting their way.
Having won a referendum by specifying a departure but being vague about the destination, they didn’t want to tell anyone else where we are going until we get there. What did they think would happen at the start of negotiations?
Europe: Right what do you want?
Boris: We want to be free! Brexit means Brexit!
Europe: Yes but we thought you wanted to negotiate the detail. So what do you want? And is this the collective view 0f the UK or are you just talking off the top of your head?
Boris: Err -let me see… (to David Davis and Liam Fox) has anyone written down some outline suggestions? Bullet points? Anything?
Bad luck boys. You have been found out by the courts and now you need to get scribbling. It isn’t difficult: we did it in early July. Sure it got amended along the way with some editing of the initial motion before it was presented to Colwyn Bay branch and at the meeting; then by the CLP meeting on 22nd July – who agreed that it would need to be tweaked by the Executive Committee to ensure it was compliant with the rules for contemporary motions. Then on 20th September it was submitted to the national Labour Party as follows:
Conference notes that the UK Government’s 5th September statement “Exiting the European Union” offered self-justification but no clear proposals for Britain’s relationship with the world post-Brexit. Conference believes that before Article 50 is invoked Parliament should agree a vision for how the UK will function outside the European Union and that the Parliamentary Labour Party should seek to ensure that this reflects not only membership of the single market but also:
- An open, tolerant society with the UK continuing to cooperate with European institutions, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international bodies to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection.
- The freedom to live and work anywhere in Europe and to have protection for terms and conditions of employment, with concerted action to help weaker regions to avoid excessive migration.
- Areas of the country and members of our communities that have suffered as a result of globalisation need the support of Government to ensure they have a chance to thrive – including action to ensure local people are able to access local jobs
- People from elsewhere in the EU currently living in the UK should be able to stay here, and UK citizens currently living elsewhere in the EU should be able to stay there.
- With long term interest rates close to zero, there has never been a better time for public infrastructure investment to boost our economy.
Sadly it wasn’t selected in the ballot by delegates on which motions to consider – but that again is similar to what the Government faces – finding time in the legislative programme. The Labour Party Conference is only a few days – the Government has months.
So come on boys – time to get your thinking caps on and write down what you want. Not your “bottom line” in terms of what you might bring back from the negotiations, but a form of words that you think you can get Parliamentary approval for – and which you think would be a sound basis for negotiation.
They will probably need to be some more about immigration. Having convinced the public that this is the greatest threat to our economy, you need to think about how to turn this around. Perhaps promise to end “Benefit Tourism” as well as promising to strengthen the enforcement of terms and conditions of employment. There isn’t much of it – but you told the public there was so you can offer an easy win by promising to stop it.
Of course the reason they are so reluctant is that they only won the referendum by misleading the public. There isn’t a consensus across the Conservative Party on hard vs. soft brexit. So making them write down what they want to do involves compromise in order to get it through Parliament. Great news to hear that is exactly what they will need to do – and if they are determined to stick to March 2017, time to get started instead of sitting round hoping the Supreme Court will overturn Parliamentary Sovereignty.