The Matter of Brexit

The Matter of Brexit

The events currently occurring in the UK will, no doubt, be confusing for many. In fact, the way in which members of the British Parliament are doing everything they can to nullify the decisive vote of the British people to leave the European Union in 2016 is, in itself, confusing.

These MPs are saying that the proroguing of Parliament is undemocratic. Some say there is a constitutional crisis. What is undemocratic is that these MPs are not getting on with their job and doing the will of the people. In fact, one may say that they have gone rogue!

Furthermore, there is no constitutional crisis of any sort. The British Prime Minister formally requested the Queen, resident at Balmoral, to prorogue the Parliament. Formal constitutional advice was presented to the Queen by a meeting of the Privy Council and assented to by the Queen in the normal manner. The approval was therefore made by The Queen in Council.

If the proroguing of the Parliament was not constitutional, the Queen would not have assented and the Privy Council would not have tended advice. Therefore, the antics of the so-called remainers in accusing the British government of being undemocratic, dictatorial and worse, are just that, antics.

It was in 1973 that the United Kingdom joined what was then known as the European Economic Community. Over the years the EEC became a political union, rather than the trading group it originally was, and the name was changed to the European Union.

In 2016 a referendum was held to decide whether the UK should leave or remain. In the UK a referendum is like a plebiscite in Australia. Whereas our referendum process under section 128 of our Constitution is binding upon the parliament, in the UK it is a voice to the parliament, but nevertheless a very powerful voice. The referendum was won by Leave with 52% to Remains’ 48%.

Originally Brexit was to happen on 29 March 2019 which was two years after the then Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 (the formal process to leave). However, she had put off the leaving date on two occasions mainly because proposals she brought back from the European Union were rejected by the British Parliament. The final date to leave is now October the 31st.

In negotiating with the European Union, the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, knows full well that he is dealing with a body that is not democratic but rather a giant bureaucracy controlled by itself. Sure, the Union has a parliament, but it is more a rubberstamp of the decisions of the unelected executive than a policy-making institution.

These bureaucrats are holding to their position. They do not know or understand the art of compromise which means that the major card that Britain can play is to simply leave the EU regardless of the enormous problems that will cause, on both sides, with trade and the like and particularly over control of the border between Northern Ireland and Eire. Of course, that border, which was once closed, was opened when both the UK and Eire became a part of the European Union.

There is, however, always the chance that countries such as Germany and France, which exert an enormous and unwarranted control over the EU, will insist the bureaucrats reach a compromise which would be acceptable to the British.

Of course, whether Britain leaves or remains will not affect Australian trade although a continued European Union control over British sovereignty is a matter of concern to us as our Crown is a shared Crown. However, if Britain does leave the Union, it will seek a trading agreement with Australia which could well be to our benefit.

The British Parliament will close on the 9th September and a new session will meet on the 14th of October, 17 days before the deadline to leave.

There is talk about going to the polls before the deadline of the 31st October, but such a movie is fraught with danger for Johnson since it is likely that the Brexit party of Nigel Farage will split the Conservative vote and as Britain has first-past-the post voting, this could well allow either Labour or the Liberal Democrats to gain seats. In first-past-the post voting the candidate with the highest number of votes wins, even though they may only receive one third or less of the total votes cast.

In the meanwhile, there will be protests, marches and disruptions so the next few weeks may not be the best time to experience the world's most visited city.


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