Why Democracy Matters

Be in no doubt, this comment is not about if the UK will leave the EU; it is more important than that.

To Set The Scene…
The opportunity for a referendum on 23 June was the product of our
democratic process, and the outcome was a clear message to our elected representatives. We are about to embark on a journey towards exiting the EU. The road will be difficult and the route is uncertain, but the destination has been made clear and we have a strong and resilient constitution that will help us resolve the issues that arise along the way.

A Brief Lesson In Constitutional Government…
The Executive (PM and cabinet) formulates a policy, the Legislature (House of Commons) will deliberate that policy and enact legislation to create statute law, and the Judiciary (law courts) must interpret and apply that law to cases brought before it. Aside from this, the Royal Prerogative grants powers to the Executive principally to act in the national interest.

Applying This To The Story So Far…
The Referendum Act 2015 did not create a statute to enable the Prime Minister to trigger the start of EU exit in the event of a leave vote. Furthermore, exercise of the Royal Prerogative, which normally allows for treaties to be made and unmade, is not appropriate; many of the rights and benefits enshrined in our domestic law are derived from the EU law which exit from the EU would sweep away.
Whichever point of view the reader might subscribe to, it makes no sense to seek to restore UK Parliamentary sovereignty by leaving the the EU only to deny it by attempting wrongful exercise of Prerogative. In claiming to be implementing the will of the people by triggering article 50 without recourse to Parliament, the Executive will establish an unintended(?) precedent.

Finally, Why This Matters More Than We Might Ever Imagine…
Next time, a less than benevolent Executive may invoke such a precedent to repeal Trades Union and workers rights legislation or privatise the NHS. Wouldn’t that be a shame when the Sovereignty of Parliament exists to avoid the risk of those unintended consequences?

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