And so the debate continues to rage about the UK’s exit from the European Union.
In the last 24 hours, the incomprehensibly complicated nature of the UK’s constitutional structure has become illustrated with court rulings about the primacy of parliament in our set up. A judges’ ruling on the rule of law gets painted as undemocratic because the ruling clearly states the nature of how our parliament is the ultimate source of democratic accountability in our parliamentary democracy. Yes, I deliberately made that sentence complicated. I spent three years studying the UK Constitution in my youth. It is complicated.
But at every turn in this increasingly depressing debacle I become more and more convinced that the “simple” task of our exiting from the European project is one that is akin to a lobster pot. You can get in, but you’re unlikely to be able to exit with ease or without any great change in state. Anyone for thermidor?
A similar example that my good mate Chris talks about it the removal of the power of the House of Lords. In 1911 the Parliament Act was passed to remove the power of the upper chamber to stop the passage of law from the House of Commons. 105 years and numerous subsequent changes and one of the concerns expressed in yesterday’s hubbub is that the Lords could veto the passage of a decision on triggering Article 50.
Yes, we are going to extricate ourselves from the EU. But anyone or any newspaper editor who thinks EU membership is a binary state, in or out, is simplistic. We existed outside of the EU. We currently exist within. We will exist post-membership. This is not going to be a reversion to the former state, because after 40 years that simply isn’t possible.
UK law is deeply entwined with European Law (as Farage kept telling us). Working out what we keep and what we jettison is going to be an ongoing project that will keep uncertainty at the top of the agenda for a very long time to come. Negotiating the terms of exit in a world where “leave” is a continuum of views from hard to soft will just be the beginning. Every single point of EU law to be retained will be a full debate in and of itself.
At the point I am quite happy to be called a moaner. But then I’d also point out that a strategy to deal with deep complexity based on hurling insults is a novel approach, and one that will not help in any way shape or form.
Alongside the exit negotiations, we need to now begin the arduous process of deciding as a nation what in our thermidor state we want to keep and we want to lose. That’s not a negotiation with the rest of the EU. That’s a democratic debate that we need to have amongst ourselves.