As agreement is reached with the EU, Theresa May’s Brexit deal will come before parliament. In this contribution, Benjamin Martill, Dahrendorf Forum Post-Doctoral Fellow at LSE, breaks down the parliamentary arithmetic and assesses her options.
My Kingdom for a Deal
Theresa May has, at long last, reached agreement with the EU on the terms of Britain’s impending withdrawal from the Union on 29 March 2019. The deal is politically controversial and seems to have pleased no one, especially the hardline Brexiters. This is because it could see the UK remain within a single customs territory with the EU, precluding the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland would also remain in key elements of the single market for goods, for the same reason. This ‘backstop’ has proven to be the most contentious element of the Withdrawal Agreement, dragging out negotiations which were almost 80 percent complete at the beginning of 2018.
With ‘exit day’ less than six months away, public debate about a second Brexit vote continues. In this new post on this topic, Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell outline the key decision points and processes by which MPs or the government might choose to trigger a second referendum.
In our previous blogpost we considered how long it would take to hold a second referendum on Brexit, concluding that an extension to Article 50 would almost certainly be required. The length of the necessary extension would depend on when the referendum was triggered. Calling a referendum requires a majority in parliament, and whether such a majority exists will depend on political and circumstantial factors. But by examining the process of Brexit we can identify a number of key junctures at which a decision to hold a referendum could be made.
Much commentary has presented the hung parliament that resulted from last week’s general election as a source of damaging instability. In this post, Albert Weale, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy at UCL, argues that democrats should in fact welcome a hung parliament, where a parliamentary majority approves measures on the basis of the merits of the arguments rather than on the basis that they were included in the majority party’s manifesto.
The UK now has a hung parliament. Does that mean that British government is no longer strong and stable but weak and wobbly? To listen to much commentary, you would think so. But for democrats there are good reasons for welcoming a hung parliament.
In June 2016, Jeff King, Professor of Law, UCL and Nick Barber, Associate Professor of Law, University of Oxford, argued that parliamentary approval was required before Article 50 could be triggered. At the time, their arguments were (wrongly) dismissed by various politicians and constitutional experts. Here, they present a rigorous and legally dense defence of the High Court’s recent decision that parliament must give its approval before the government can trigger Article 50.
Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has stimulated quite a bit of debate. Some criticism of the decision has been well-informed and thoughtful, whilst some of it has been, to put it charitably, less worthy of engagement. In this post we respond to what we view as the strongest arguments against Miller, taking account of the Government’s written case for appeal. We discussed the reasoning used in the case in an earlier post written with Tom Hickman, and will not repeat that explanation here. This post assumes knowledge of that earlier piece, which was written with the lay reader in mind. The present piece, more legally detailed, is necessitated by the quite subtle replies to the argument in that original post and to the judgment in Miller.
In light of the ongoing legal hearing on the triggering of Article 50, Piet Eeckhout, Professor of EU Law at UCL, examines Article 50 from an EU law perspective. He explores what the UK’s ‘constitutional requirements’ for leaving the EU entail, noting that Parliament has a role to play in any withdrawal decision.
The litigation concerning the triggering of Art 50 TEU is under way, with hearings this week and next. It is the constitutional case of the century. The government’s skeleton argument has been published. This reveals that one of the pillars of its defence is that the decision to withdraw from the EU has already been taken. Consequently, all that is in issue is the authority to notify the EU of that decision, and to start the two-year negotiation period provided for in Art 50. That, the government’s case goes, is a decision of high policy which is rightly in the government’s hands, and not in those of parliament.