Ten reasons why it is not undemocratic for The House of Lords to amend the Article 50 bill

…or to vote against it if amendments are rejected.

  1. The House of Lords exists as a check on power, and to make governments think again where they may be acting precipitously. Lords have a duty to do what they think is right and in the best interests of the UK.
  2. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto was clear that whatever happened, the government would protect the UK in the single market, which is not the government’s plan.
  3. The referendum was not an election, the result of which could be reversed at the next general election. This is the sort of irrevocable constitutional change that the HoL is there to ask for reflection on.
  4. Democracy does not begin and end on a single day.  People change their minds in light of new information and it is childish to hold them to their first answer like gameshow contestants.
  5. Large numbers of people were denied the right to vote in the referendum.
  6. The referendum result was close, and insufficient for such a large, irrevocable constitutional change.
  7. Parliament had clearly decided that the referendum was advisory.
  8. It was and is unclear what leaving the EU would mean. People were forced to vote blind.
  9. Two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and the UK leaving would amount to them being dragged out against their democratic will.
  10. The electorate was misled. Deliberately and repeatedly misled.

Detail

1. Lords have a duty to do what they think is right and in the best interests of the UK.  

  • It is not democratic for a Lord to vote in favour of something they believe or know to be damaging to the UK and its population.
  • To do this would be an abrogation of their moral and constitutional duty.
  • If this results in a reform of the House of Lords, then so be it. Lords should be proud to have done their duty, not scared of reform.

2. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto was clear that whatever happened, the UK’s position in the single market would be protected.

  • The government has said clearly that it will not honour this commitment.
  • The House of Lords is not bound to accept legislation that is contrary to the manifesto of the Government.

3. The referendum was not an election, the result of which could be reversed at the next general election. 

  • It is also not a standard piece of legislation that can be revoked by future parliaments
  • Leaving the EU will be irrevocable and will affect every person in the UK for the rest of their lives.

4. Democracy does not begin and end on a single day.

  • It is not clear at all that, as the realities of the UK leaving the EU become apparent, it would continue to be the will of the people to do so.
  • It is patronising and childish to deny people the right to change their mind in light of new information.

5. Large numbers of people were denied the right to vote in the referendum

This included:

  • EU citizens permanently resident in the UK (3 million approx);
  • 16 and 17 year olds, who had been eligible to vote in the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014, and who the Government said it would have been “too complicated” to allow to vote in the EU referendum (1 million approx);
  • and UK citizens living in other EU Member States for more than 15 years, including those employed by the EU institutions (1 million approx, though possibly many more).
  • 6. The referendum result was close, and insufficient for such a large, irrevocable constitutional change.

6. Of those eligible to vote, only 37.5% voted to leave the EU, meaning 62.5% did not vote to leave.

  • While people on both sides talk about the 17 million for, or the 16 million against leaving, the reality is that only 1.3m people out of a population of 64.1 million effectively decided the entire future of the UK.
  • Almost all other countries require either 50% of the electorate or 60% of those who vote for major constitutional change.
  • The reason this was not required in this case is because the referendum was advisory, and it was therefore unnecessary.

7. Parliament had decided that the referendum was advisory.  

  • The legislation passed by Parliament was clear on this. The referendum has no constitutional status in the way that it would in, for example, Ireland.
  • MPs and Lords were made aware of this by House of Commons briefing papers before passing the Act, and this is in the public domain.
  • MPs and Lords could have chosen to make the referendum binding, as, for example, the Alternative Vote referendum was, but they chose not to.

8. It was and is unclear what leaving the EU would mean. 

  • It could mean anything from being in the EEA and EFTA, which would require freedom of movement and EU laws, but would be less economically damaging, to a complete break (‘hard’ or ‘dirty’ Brexit) which would not require freedom of movement, but would be extremely economically damaging.
  • Those who voted Leave were therefore voting for a very wide spectrum of possible outcomes, not a single one.

9. Two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and the UK leaving would amount to them being dragged out against their democratic will. 

  • In the case of Scotland, this may be contrary to the Act of Union of 1707 which formed the UK, and, in the case of Northern Ireland, will undermine the Good Friday Agreement, which is an international treaty with Ireland which rests on EU law.
  • It may also lead to the new EU external border between the UK and Ireland becoming a hard border, contrary to this agreement.

10. The electorate was deliberately misled.

  • Serving Government ministers and MPs from both major parties in the Leave campaign, including the current Foreign Secretary, repeatedly and knowingly lied to voters on many aspects of the EU.
  • This included the famous £350m claim, but also many others such as claims that the UK did not control its own non-EU immigration, that the EEA could be joined without agreeing to free movement of people, and that trade deals with third countries and even with individual EU Member States could be entered into immediately after the vote.
  • When consumers are misled, the law seeks to protect them and for restitution to be made.  We do not blame them for believing untrue claims, and nor do we tell them that they are stuck with the product they bought under false pretences.

 

Advertisements

Why I have joined the SNP

I joined the SNP on 1st February 2017, just after the vote in the Commons on invoking Article 50.  I’ve no doubt this will irritate some of my friends (who are members of other parties) and baffle others (I’m English and live in Belgium).  Here’s why I have done it.

Firstly, I love Scotland. I studied at Stirling University and lived there for 8 years. I have close family and some of my closest friends in Scotland.  Two of my teenage nephews are Scottish. Their future is my concern.  Contrary to the expectations of some, Scotland welcomed this Englishman wholeheartedly, and I would now like to help it.

I’ve never been member of a national political party before.  I’ve never wanted to, even though, or perhaps because, I studied Politics, and then worked in government, for a combined 20 years.  To be honest, I’ve never understood how someone can have loyalty to a voluntary organisation to the point that they can defend it even when they know it is wrong.  I’ve also always considered the blind adherence of Members of Parliament to a party line to be something that fundamentally cheapens representative democracy and undermines the quality of public discourse.

Although I now believe very strongly in the need for an Independent Scotland in the EU now, I haven’t always.  I lived and studied in Scotland from 1995 until 2003, and voted in the Devolution referendum in 1997.  I thought devolution worked pretty well in its early years. Not being born and raised in Scotland, I had no emotional attachment to the idea of Independence.  The same could be said of the Union mind. I didn’t have strong feelings either way.

The early years of the (reconvened) Scottish Parliament were a great success, with Sheridan’s Private Members’ bill to ban warrant sales, and the devolved tail wagging the central dog by ending Clause 28 (Clause 2b) before it had even crossed the Westminster government’s mind to do so.  My friends Peter Lynch and Steven Birrell have written about how the then new Scottish Parliament’s petitions system revolutionised public participation in the political process in Scotland. (https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2001/may/07/guardiananalysispage )

So why the SNP, and why now? Because the Westminster government and Parliament dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will is a travesty.  Not only that, but the refusal of both to support, or even seriously examine the Scottish Government’s very reasonable compromise proposals on remaining in the Single Market was nothing less than a clear “Fuck Off” to everyone in Scotland, and to the UK’s constitutional settlement as a whole.  And this was on a compromise which the Scottish Government itself said was nowhere near their preferred option.

Anyone who has not read the Scottish Government’s White paper “Scotland’s Place in Europe” should do so, even if they are not in Scotland.  It sets out clearly that this horrible car-crash Brexit that the government is planning, and the opposition are supporting, does not have to happen.  It sets out that even if Brexit did have to happen, its effects could be mitigated for Scotland.  In fact, it could be mitigated for the whole of the UK.  All opposition parties should have got behind this. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/9234/downloads

Last night’s vote in the Commons on Article 50, was a pathetic abrogation of duty by all but a hundred or so MPs.  There is nothing democratic about MPs voting for something they know will damage their country and its people.

Nicola Sturgeon, Angus Robertson and SNP MPs have shown fortitude, rationality and leadership while the official UK opposition party have floundered, and ignored their principles to court potential UKIP voters in an ill conceived attempt to shore up support for a party that almost everyone now sees is failing.  While Labour was trying to work out how not to alienate ignorant xenophobes, Nicola Surgeon was reassuring EU citizens and refugees alike that they were welcome in Scotland.

I have considered myself to have been a natural LibDem voter my whole life, and I think they are certainly a force for good in England and Wales.  In my ideal world, The SNP and the LibDems would be in alliance in Westminster elections. I have even hovered over the ‘join now’ button on their website many times since the referendum. The lack of support for the Scottish Government’s Brexit response however has shown that the Scottish LibDems clearly put petty party politics and blind Unionism above both the will and the interests of Scotland.  This is a betrayal of the LibDems fundamental pro-EU and democratic principles.  Also, Norman Lamb.

It is therefore clear now that, not only is the UK ruled by a government that at best ignores and at worst hates Scotland, but that the official Opposition has much the same view.  It is equally clear that an independent Scotland in the EU is the only option for Scotland.  It may be too late for England and rUK, but I believe it is not for Scotland.

It can be done. Sentiment among the EU27 and the European Parliament is pro-Scotland, and there is wide recognition that the situation is substantially different to 2014.  Spain’s attitude has softened considerably as it recognises that Scotland is now in the same boat as the Remain-voting Gibraltans. There are several options, some of which may avoid Scotland ever having to leave the EU, but a pre-accession transition arrangement while the final touches are put to an independent Scotland’s accession process would be standard accession methodology, particularly as Scotland already implements vast swathes of EU law in full.

So I have joined the SNP to show support and offer my assistance to the Scottish Government’s attempts to avoid being ripped out of the EU against its will, and to avoid its citizens being stripped of their EU citizenship against their will.

Scotland must get itself away from those in Westminster who ignore, belittle and abuse it, and find a future in a friendly, pro-Scotland EU.  I will do anything I can to help it do so.

An open Letter to the 498 MPs who voted for Article 50

Dear Morons,

So you’ve done it then. To show a small number of little-englander xenophobes that they should vote for you instead of UKIP, you’ve shot your own country and its population in the fucking face  (Note: they won’t vote for you anyway).  You’ve taken one look at the right wing press and a handful of crackpots threatening rioting in the streets, cacked your pants, and sold the people, your people, down the river.

Labour MPs (apart from the rather heroic 47 who put their conscience and country before their frankly nuts party), you’ve handed the most right-wing Conservative government ever a blank cheque to enact the most painful Brexit possible.  Of course, it won’t be you who suffer, but your constituents, so that’s okay, no? Is it perhaps that the bigger the shit-fest May makes of it, the more you think Labour can capitalise? Or is it because you want racists and xenophobes to vote for you? Or is it, in fact, because you are spineless yes-men and women, who never wanted to have to put yourselves on the line over this anyway?

And why have you abrogated your moral and constitutional responsibility to act in the best interests of the UK? To take it back?  Take what back?  The UK?  Well, take it back from me then.  I want nothing to do with you or your nasty little England.

Take it back from all the people who think people from other places are actually a lot like them.

Take it back from people who think you should help those most in need in the world. Take it back from my friends and family who thought that the country they lived in was tolerant, open and friendly.

Take it back from your constituents who have jobs that are now under threat.

Take it back from those nasty immigrant nurses, doctors, professors and firemen who have the temerity to accept jobs in the UK and pay tax there. Remember that you voted for Article 50 without the slightest idea whether their rights would be guaranteed.

Take it back from people who don’t consider somebody speaking another language to be a personal insult. Take it back from people who aren’t nasty, self-centred, little Englanders.

Take it back from UK citizens who’ve made their life in the EU, and who now have no idea what will happen next.  Take it back from all those who’ve worked for years and decades for the UK’s interests in the EU institutions and now don’t know if they have a job, career, or even a right to remain.

Take it back from the Scots who you are dragging out of the EU against their overwhelming will, and whose very reasonable compromise on the Single Market the government has summarily rejected.

Take it back from the people of Northern Ireland who recognised that the EU underpinned peace and cross-border prosperity, but who have been palmed off with hardly-credible assurances of special statuses.

Take it back from Gina Miller, Jo Maugham, and all the people who started and helped fund the legal challenges, including me, that gave Parliament the chance to have a say, while you all sat on your hands hoping you wouldn’t have to do anything tricky, like your duty. I literally paid for you to have this opportunity that you wasted.

Take it back from the High and Supreme Court Justices who were brave enough to uphold the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty in the face of a hateful press while you looked the other way, embarrassed at your lack of courage.

Take it back from your constituents in the poorest regions in the UK, who you know will be the ones to bear the real cost and misery of the Government’s clueless Brexit strategy.

I’m sure your constituents will enjoy their new found freedom to be fucked repeatedly by their employers with no recourse, if they still have a job, and by the rich, right-wing peddlers of hate who told them it was immigrants and the EU’s fault, not the UK government’s, that they had to wait a bit for their free healthcare sometimes.

I’m done defending you. You’ve made the British the most despised people in Europe, and possibly the world. You’ve destabilised the economy directly for nearly half a billion people, and potentially for the rest of the world. You’ve blown a hole in peace and stability in Europe, and shat on nearly sixty years of cooperation and mutual understanding. And why? Because you were scared you might lose a few votes to UKIP, and this was more important to you than the future of your country.

You knew the consequences of your actions. The Prime Minister has said clearly that either the EU gives the UK a combination of concessions that it and its 27 Heads of State and Government have explicitly, repeatedly explained is impossible, or the UK leaves without a deal. But you did it anyway.  You, all of you, are responsible for everything that this government now does as equally as if you did it yourself.

Take it back, morons, and give it to your new friend Donald.  You’re fucking welcome to what’s left of it when he’s done with it. I want none of it. I don’t know how you can sleep at night.