The EU Referendum posed a simple, clear question: should we remain in the EU or leave? It was not qualified in any way. There was no condition that leaving depended on some mythical ‘deal’, or remaining in the Single Market, or any other qualification. 17.4 Million people voted to leave by a majority of almost 1.3 million.
If Mrs May were really serious about leaving the EU should would have written the little note required to trigger Article 50 the day after her election as Tory Party Leader. Instead she has done nothing and the opponents of Brexit have been able to regroup, mobilise, and mount a successful case to the High Court to delay the whole process even further.
It is amusing (almost) to note that those claiming to defend Parliamentary sovereignty now were totally untroubled as our sovereignty was handed over piece by piece to the EU over the last forty-three years. They had no problem with the Treaty of Rome, and every subsequent EU Treaty, being signed under the Royal Prerogative. Now that the Government wishes to use the same Prerogative to give notice to quit they object.
The Referendum is of course not binding in a strict legal sense. The wording that would have made it so, as with other referenda, was omitted; however it is constitutionally binding. Parliament was constituted in the first place as the ‘General Council of the Realm’. MPs represent the people, they hold our sovereignty in stewardship but they do not own it. What could possibly constitute the General Council of the Realm more comprehensively than the people being consulted in a referendum?
So what happens next? A recent opinion poll showed that almost fifty per cent of people thought that Theresa May had no plan for Brexit. The only surprise is that the percentage was so low. What she is proposing does not look like much of a plan.
She will not trigger Article 50 until March next year, a full nine months after the referendum. She will then spend two years negotiating a ‘deal’. In 2019 the other twenty-seven EU member states must unanimously approve it, and the European Parliament vote on it. Either party might reject it, putting us back to square one.
Meanwhile we will have continued to pay billions into the EU budget; we will have had almost three more years of uncontrolled immigration; and not a single EU law will have been repealed, and indeed many more laws will have been imposed on us. Only then will Mrs May repeal the European Communities Act (1972) and legally end our membership of the EU (albeit unlawful in the first place). All EU laws will remain in place. Mrs May’s plan is one of delay, do nothing, and fudge.
Her eventual ‘deal’ might look something like the Swiss or Norwegian models. Countries that do not belong to the EU but still pay money to the EU, obey a large percentage of its laws, and have open borders to EU citizens. That is not what we voted for on 23rd June. If we end up with this we might as well not have bothered at all.
The High Court’s recent decision has generated much sound and fury. There are calls for marches on the Supreme Court to vent the anger of the people, and dire warnings of rebellion. But we are being led up the garden path so that we can then all bark up the wrong tree.
Article 50 is a trap, but it is also a red herring. At some point there will have to be a vote of Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act which will legally end our membership of the EU under our own law. That vote can come at the end or the beginning of the process, but it has to come.
For those of us who have laboured to bring about the referendum over many years we have to ask, what do we want: Brexit or Exit? Do we leave the EU under a long laborious process under terms directed by the EU, or do we leave under our own steam and under our terms?
There is a much surer way of delivering the referendum decision. We should just forget Article 50 and Parliament immediately repeal the European Communities Act as a first step. This is perfectly legal under British and international law.
Chaos would not ensue. All EU Directives were enacted as Acts of Parliament and would remain in place. However, we would have the freedom to immediately repeal the Freedom of Movement Directive and put new laws in place to control our borders and immigration.
Regarding the Single Market, we should offer the EU a simple choice: do they want to continue tariff-free trade or do they want trade under World Trade Organisation terms? It is not in their interests or ours to impose tariffs; but if the UK did have to pay them they would only amount to about half of our current net contribution to the EU budget.
We would then be free to begin the process of repealing or amending EU law according to our priorities. Some of it we might want to keep in order to allow us to interact with the EU. This process puts us in the driving seat and not the EU.
Now we are not naive enough to think that the Houses of Parliament actually want to do this. A majority of their members probably do not. But MPs and Lords should have to make a choice. Do they go along with the will of a majority of the electorate, or do they put themselves in opposition to it? If they disregard it then they will trigger something else: a constitutional crisis on a par with those of 1642 and 1688. They are hiding behind delay, hoping to wear down the voters’ resolve in a war of attrition.
UKIP must not allow itself to be duped into demanding Article 50. The Remainers in our Houses of Parliament, in our courts, and in our media, wish to delay as long as possible. Their strategy is to focus on hammering home the message that we must have continued tariff-free access to the Single Market – under the EU’s terms. And thereby achieve a ‘deal’ whereby we do not really leave at all.
That is their strategy, but what is UKIP’s? We must lay out the alternative way of leaving – by repealing the European Communities Act first. For twenty-four years UKIP has led the debate on Britain leaving the EU. We have won a major battle, but the war still has to be won. We won’t have won until Britain has left the EU – but on our terms and with our national independence fully restored.