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2 February 2017

A few words from @sturdyAlex on #Brexit

"I need to say a few words about this whole Parliament voting for Brexit, without any detail on what it means, being framed as "respecting the people's will" and any resistance conversely as "undemocratic". I CALL BULLSHIT.

It may be POLITICALLY difficult, but constitutionally? Easy, peasy. Every first year law student prays for a constitutional law exam question this clear-cut. It is at best a conflict between representative and direct democracy. And, since our system is explicitly the former, is a really easy conflict to resolve.

That is why the referendum was deemed to be advisory by the High Court (clearest in para.106 of the judgment) and the appeal on this issue rejected by the Supreme Court. Your views on the judiciary aside, this is now settled law:

"[The 2015 Referendum Act] falls to be interpreted in light of the basic constitutional principles of parliamentary sovereignty and representative parliamentary democracy which apply in the United Kingdom, which lead to the conclusion that a referendum on any topic can only be advisory for the lawmakers in Parliament unless very clear language to the contrary is used in the referendum legislation in question. No such language is used in the 2015 Referendum Act."

So any MP is constitutionally absolutely entitled to vote with their conscience on this issue. The referendum has political meaning, but no legal or constitutional standing. As I said, it may be really difficult to balance the needs of the self, the party and the country. Some truly honourable MPs on both sides have resigned, rather than make this terrible choice.

Whatever you think of the referendum result, when you hear MP after MP stand up and say they think this is going to be a disaster for the UK, but they're going to vote for it anyway, what you hear is political difficulties overriding the right thing.

Reaching a stage where politicians make choices they believe to be wrong, because they're terrified of voters is ochlocracy, not democracy. It is not to be celebrated, but a symptom of profound dysfunction and should worry anyone intelligent, Brexiter or Remainer.

But it doesn't, because we're still wrapped up in the adversarial language of the referendum and so we are giving our politicians a free pass.

Add on top, the insidious idea that worrying about such things, or raising objections of legality through proper channels, or wanting to participate in the debate on what shape things take after we have left the EU, is somehow a lack of respect for the result of the referendum and you have a toxic mix.

Very few people have seriously raised this and yet it is has become the paranoia-du-jour. "They're trying to steal your victory." "Trying to disrespect your democratic will."

I suggest quite the opposite. Let's respect the result of the referendum. IN ITS ENTIRETY. And that result is: on a highly emotive and inflamed issue, with AWFUL quality of information available, often on purpose, often outright lies, a country was divided pretty much down the middle, and decided by a narrow margin a thing.

Sorry if that doesn't fit in your victory narrative, but that WAS the result of the referendum. And you disrespect it by saying fuck the 48%, as much as the few who say fuck the 52%. The only respectful result, the only democratic result, is one that as close as possible to 100% of citizens can live with. And for that to happen, all voices must be heard.

Once formulated this way, of course, the idea that the end result should gratify exclusively every Hard Brexit wet dream of the most extreme Europhobe, that the rest of the country can just lump it because "it lost", is revealed for the utter nonsense it is.

What we get instead is an act of political opportunism by a Tory Party sensing an hopelessly impotent opposition and going hell-for-leather at its once-in-a-lifetime chance to exorcise its perennial demon.

And that, friends, is the most undemocratic result of all."
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