Today the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled in favour of Parliament having a vote on whether the government can start the process of leaving the EU: the activation of article 50.
It now means a bill will need to go before Parliament for debate and then vote. The questions still remain about what this bill will say. But we are told we can expect to see it within days. It’s as if the government had prepared for the loss in the Supreme Court!
My belief is that the bill presented will be extremely simple, containing just the clauses needed to give the government the power to start the process. However, it doesn’t mean the final bill MPs are asked to pass in to law will be so simple. Parties and individual MPs will likely be able to make amendments. It likely rests on these amendments as to whether the bill will pass (or at least whether it should pass).
In the final votes, I believe there are only three options open to MPs if they are truly to act in the best interests of the country.
A vote against the main bill.
There is yet to be any evidence of benefit of proceeding to leave the EU and growing evidence against. A simple vote against proceeding to activate Article 50 would be doing the best for the country based on current available evidence and projections.
A vote in support of activating article 50 if substantial protections for workers rights, the environment, businesses etc can be guaranteed upfront via amendments to the main bill.
This would force the government to either ensure protections are passed in to law separately from any deal to leave the EU, or by requiring them to be a part of the final deal. This is likely to be a complex and long process, but would ensure we do not retreat in terms of all what has been fought for over the generations and give reassurances and stability to businesses.
A vote for article 50 if there is a guarantee, backed by the EU or courts and amended in to the bill, that should the agreed deal between the UK and EU is deemed substandard to the current situation, article 50 will be revoked and we will, for now, remain in the EU.
This ensures the protections of 2, without needing to do so up front, by preventing the one way journey the government have suggested: that after triggering article 50 they want the only options to their deal or no deal. Their suggested course is, in my view, an act of national vandalism.
It would need to be a guarantee that Parliament (or the people) could vote to reject any agreed deal and that if the vote failed the UK would revoke the activation of article 50 and remain in the EU. It would also, of course, first require clarification that article 50 can indeed be revoked once activated.
The betrayal in the article 50 vote
If ANY MP votes for article 50 outside any of the above situations, then it is a betrayal of the people of the UK. There is no logical justification for voting for article 50 without any safe guards. There is no sensible argument to trigger article 50 in such a way to give the government the green light to do what it wants with no way back.
Without safe guards up front, the government’s own plans show us that there will be no way back, no way to protect workers, no way to protect the environment and no way to protect businesses in the UK. You won’t be able to argue for those things afterwards. It will just be an option of accepting whatever the government presents or accept there is no deal at all.
We must therefore see our MPs, from all sides, fighting hard for the UK’s interests and get those protections into law right now before it is too late.
It is not good enough to argue that voting to activate article 50 with no conditions attached would be respecting the people’s will. There were so many lies and deceptions in the campaign. Hard Brexit was never presented as a realistic option by many leading voices in the leave campaign. People were promised protections for the people and businesses.
Yet the governments plans are for as hard a Brexit as possible with no safety provisions in place. That would be disastrous for the UK, considering the results were exceptionally close and the referendum only advisory. It is simply not good enough.
It is therefore important for every member of Parliament, and indeed the whole country, to put the UK first, even if that means political losses in the short term. In the end history will judge our MPs on how they vote and I’m certain that the three options outlined above will prove to be the only sensible and correct courses of action and, in the longer term, will also prove to be the only politically sensible options.