A Civil War was fought in Britain over several years, commencing in 1642, between the King who believed in the divine right to rule while ignoring the problems of the ordinary folk, against Parliament driven by those who wished to redress the issues of the nation, to reassert the powers of Parliament to initiate laws and to introduce more democracy.
Following the war won by Parliament and its model army, the King was beheaded and Britain became a Republic. Oliver Cromwell was never happy with the Parliament still full of the previous members, many of which had obtained seats from their forefathers. To those, the concept of giving democratic rights to lesser folk was crazy and would bring their world to an end. Does that sound familiar?
Cromwell disbanded Parliament and, being unable to replace the members with properly elected ones, he chose to rule on his own as an autocrat, or benevolent dictator.
Subsequently on the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II, Parliament was restored as the dominant force creating the laws that were put to approval by Charles II giving Royal Assent. The monarch thereafter always had the theoretical power to withhold consent but it was not often done. Indeed the last occasion was in 1707.
Over these centuries only a limited number of inhabitants were allowed to vote for the election of Members to Parliament, usually based on ownership of land but eventually all males over the age of 21 years were given that right. Woman then had to campaign using the Suffragette movement before obtaining the equal right to vote in 1929.
From that time Members of the Commons were elected by all adults in General Elections every 5 five years or less. The Commons, with the assistance of the civil service, would create a Bill for discussion in the House and usually, after amendments, it would pass a first reading there.
Then the Bill goes to the House of Lords for further discussion and suggested amendments before being returned to the Commons for the final reading, approval or rejection by a majority vote. If passed it is given the Royal Assent added by commissioners on behalf of the monarch and becomes An Act of Parliament.
So it is we the people who by our vote empower the Members of Parliament to act for us in the creation of our laws. The monarch in theory has the ultimate power to confer or withhold Royal Assent.
In 1972 a very strange thing happened. The Prime Minister, Edward Heath pushed through Parliament – with only very few dissenters – what became the European Communities Act.
This Act, together with Edward Heath signing the treaty for Britain to join the European Economic Community, gave the superiority of European Law over British Law. He told us it was only a Common Market for trade and would not affect our sovereignty. He lied.
Indeed the act of the Commissioners in giving the Royal Assent to the 1972 Act actually removed the power of the monarch to withhold assent on any laws subsequently imposed on Britain by Europe. That seems a really strange thing for the monarch to do. ,Furthermore Parliament had not explained this intent to the electorate and did not constitutionally have the right to change our system of government without the consent of the people.
Harold Wilson won the next election on the promise of a referendum on EEC membership. Then he bombarded the electorate with government leaflets extolling the benefits of the membership and the dangers of going alone again. (Does that ring a bell?) It worked, and membership was confirmed with 67% of the vote.
In 1992 John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty, again without the consent of the people. His government told us it was only a tidying up exercise and wouldn’t affect our sovereignty so didn’t require a referendum. They lied.
It turned the previous organisation into the EU, introduced qualified majority voting and removed unanimity and the veto from many areas of governance.
In 2009 Gordon Brown turned up late at a meeting of Heads of European States in Lisbon in Portugal and signed the Lisbon Treaty for further integration in the European Union, without the consent of the people.
He and his government told us it was just another tidying up exercise to make the EU more efficient and our rights and sovereignty were protected by further vetoes. They lied.
David Cameron finally gave in to pressure from the people to hold the referendum on membership and we voted to leave. Article 50 is the method of officially notifying the EU that we intend to leave. It sets out a nominal 2 year period for negotiation, though it needn’t take that long and can be extended by mutual agreement.
The Remainers say that the Referendum was advisory, but it was as a result of an Act of Parliament, so it becomes the will of the people. To return to sovereignty of Parliament free from interference from the EU requires the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act.
The clever Mrs May hoped she would be able to go down this road by adopting all existing EU Law into British Law (including those where we still have a veto) in order to appease the Remainers. But they are not going to go down without fighting tooth and nail for their beloved socialist continental project. Already she has agreed to concessions.
The Labour Party has promised to put 170 questions to the Prime Minister with regard to leaving between now and the triggering of Article 50. I see no prospect of Mrs May getting even the Grand Repeal Bill through the House of Commons and the House of Lords where each is packed with an overwhelming number of Remainers.
I fear that the only way to finally achieve the repeal of the 1972 Act will be to replace the majority of Remainers with Leavers, so the constitution is upheld and we don’t end up with a conflict between Parliament and the people.
Parliament needs to be reminded that they rule only with and by our consent. We have been run roughshod over for too long!